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DUKE 
UNIVERSITY 
LIBRARY 




Gift of 

BUZ Schznck 



© 1978 by International Publishers Co., Inc. 

All rights reserved 
First edition, 1978 
Printed in the United States of America 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 

Myerson, Michael, 1940- 

Nothing could be finer. 

Includes bibliographical references. 

I. Afro-Americans -Civil rights North Carolina. 
2. Civil rights North Carolina. 3. North Carolina- 
Politics and government 1951- 4. Chavis. Ben, 
1948- 5. Clergy North Carolina - Biography. 
I. Title. 

EI85.93.N6M93 323.4'09756 78-17407 

ISBN 0-7178-0553-0 
ISBN 0-7178-0498-4 pbk. 



it?? 



Contents 



A ckno wledgements 

page v 

Introduction 

page 3 

One 

page 9 

Two 

page 47 

Three 

page 95 

Four 

page 139 

Five 

page 167 

Afterword 

page 219 

Notes 

page 235 



This one's for Charlene of course 



A cknowledgemen ts 



Naturally the author accepts full responsibility for the words you are 
about to read, but credit must be shared by many people, too many to list 
here. Still, special mention should be made of the staff of the National 
Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, whose patience in the 
face of great impatience allowed this work to proceed. Under the 
leadership of executive secretary Charlene Mitchell, they include Kay 
Anderson, Linda Edwards, Lucia Faithfull-Stevenson, Sandra Frankel, 
Malvice Jefferson, Bonnie Kanter, Frederica Lawson, Anne Mitchell, 
Stefanie Mitchell, Maria Ramos, Marj Sutherland, Nancy Sutula and 
Ruth Yates. 

So many folks in North Carolina were generous with their time and 
knowledge, showing their famous hospitality to this Northern boy. The 
entire Chavis family and the Paul family have been particular inspira- 
tions. 

Finally, I owe enormous debts to Henry Winston, Laura Brown, 
Elaine Markson and my parents who, each, in very special ways, made 
this book possible. 





Digitized by 


the Internet Archive 








in 2014 







https://archive.org/details/nothingcouldbefiOOmyer_0 



Introduction 



Esse Quam Videri [ To Be Rather Than to Seem] 
North Carolina state motto 



By the time Ben Chavis and the Wilmington 10 entered prison in 
February 1976, it had come to this in North Carolina: the state's license- 
tag slogan, "First in Freedom" was meeting with protest. Some local 
folks, appalled by the nation's largest death-row population at Raleigh's 
Central Prison, taped over the slogan. For which they were arrested. 
Misdemeanors in North Carolina bring sentences as high as two years at 
Central. 

With the first Southern president of this century now in the White 
House, new national attention has been paid the South. Much has been 
written about the New South, how the tradition of racist terror has been 
abandoned by a new breed of public officials ushering in a bright era. 
Discrimination is now an occasional occurrence, lynching a distant 
memory. North Carolina, it is said, best exemplifies this reformist spirit. 
But, like rouge on a corpse, the New South is little more than cosmetic to 
prevent the reality of North Carolina from showing through. 

The gap between "to be" and "to seem" in this state suggests some of 
that same eerie incongruity that the Polish writer Tadeusz Borowski 
portrayed of life in Auschwitz — the Red Cross van transporting gas to 
the "showers," the German-occupied cities with stores filled with books 
and religious objects while smoke from the crematoria hovered over the 
trees. In this sense alone, the New South doesn't seem as repressive as it 
really is. 

Barbara Howar finds symbolic of North Carolina the tragedy of a 
childhood friend, "the daughter of old Monty," who became a drug 
addict and now lives out her days in the attic of the family mansion, 
spaced out on morphine. Her father is on the boards of the state hospitals 
and will tell the curious that his daughter has "back trouble." 1 



Introduction 



In 1584, two English settlers published a booklet, extolling the beauties 
of what is now North Carolina. They called it "the goodliest land under 
the cope of heaven," a description used today by the tourist merchants to 
drum up business. Business seems good: Tourism, the state's third largest 
industry, accrues about a billion dollars a year. By mobile home and 
backpack, the citizenry comes to sup on the goodliest land's Blue Ridge 
with its azalea, rhododendron, mountain laurel and wild orchids; the 
Outer Banks with the largest coastline of any state, after California and 
Florida; the stockcar racetracks that originated in the mountains with 
enterprising young moonshiners who had to flee the "revenooers." The 
fauna and flora of North Carolina are seductive. Valleys are misty in the 
dawn, willows weep for us in the East. Tear off the page, it's already 
September. The more alert tourist in the Great Smokies will discover 
increasing air and water pollution and land erosion as this eastern tip of 
Appalachia becomes the "second-home" center for developers like for- 
mer NATO commander, General Lauris Norstad. In some mountain 
counties, more than 75 percent of the land is now owned by resort 
developers from outside the state. 2 

Some come as tourists and decide to settle. Whereas a postwar exodus 
sent Black farmworkers and white mountain people to the cities of the 
North, there has been a more recent influx of whites into the state, 
looking to staff the executive suites and research laboratories of the new 
industries and expanded government apparatus. One such settler began 
as a news reporter for Raleigh's paper of record, The News and Observer, 
and moved into state government promoting tourism. He likes North 
Carolina because of the affection among the people: "I've never seen a 
place where people are quite as warm and friendly." Another Northerner, 
David Flaherty, who calls himself a "Boston Irishman," became the 
state's Secretary of Human Resources and Republican candidate for 
governor in 1976. Flaherty came south as a salesman for Broyhill 
Furniture, settied, became a state senator and now devotes himself to 
Little League baseball and the boy scouts. "This is a good environment 
for bringing up kids," he says. "They can get as good an education here as 
anywhere." 3 Where he sees salad, others see weeds: North Carolina has 
the fourth highest drop-out rate in the country, and more juveniles in 
prison per capita than any other of these United States. 

In the North Carolina Museum of History, a block away from the state 
capitol, not one Black person is identified in three floors of exhibitions. 
In one corner hang three oil paintings of unidentified Black women, one 
of whom is a maid, peacock fan in hand, standing over a dinner spread. 
There are two paintings of Black men, one a cook preparing a meal. 

4 



Introduction 

Thirty photos alone are exhibited of David Marshal Williams, the white 
man who designed the U.S. .30m caliber carbine. Nearby are a dozen oil 
paintings depicting "Plantation Scenes from Life" of unidentified Black 
slaves. Schoolchildren and tourists by the busload troop through these 
rooms each day to receive "as good an education as anywhere." 

Visitors and native Carolinians drive on the largest state-maintained 
highway system in the United States, some 75,000 miles of roads which 
have given North Carolina the nickname, "The Good Roads State." Only 
the more curious will discover that until 1973 the roads were built and 
maintained by convict labor in chain gangs. 

So much camouflage is required to cover the past of the New South. 
Fayetteville, the state's fastest growing community, is the off-base town 
for Fort Bragg, the nation's largest military base. In the center of 
Fayetteville sits its major tourist attraction, the "Old Market House." 
Erected in 1838, the building is identified to the thousands who annually 
pass by as a former town hall, former house of worship, former bank and 
former school. Left unmentioned is that it was built and served as the 
largest slave auction block in the state until emancipation. 

To prevent that emancipation from ever coming to pass, enlightened 
North Carolina furnished more men to the Confederate cause than any 
other state. 4 North Carolina honors Confederate Memorial Day on May 
10 each year with the official flying of the Stars and Bars. Known to 
tourists and basketball fans as the Tarheel State, it took that name from a 
compliment by Robert E. Lee for the refusal of its soldiers to retreat 
during the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee, commander of the only army that 
ever tried to overthrow the government of the United States by force and 
violence, is regarded as the most wonderful of heroes in this state which 
prides itself on vigilence against subversion. Thus does the New South 
hold onto "a dream remembered, a civilization gone with the wind," as 
Margaret Mitchell would have had it. 

It doesn't exactly harken one back to the Burma Shave days of yore, 
but North Carolina's famed highways aren't without their Ku Klux Klan 
billboards, urging drivers to "Help Fight Communism and Integration, 
Join and Support the United Klans of America, Inc." Or, accompanied 
by a picture of the flag, handbills declaring: "Old Glory. If Anybody tries 
to tear it down, shoot him on the spot." But most of those in authority 
deny the existence of the Klan or consider it, at most, a handful of 
crackpots. Nightriders have become, if not a relic of the past, at least a 
seldom-used albeit effective method of delivering a message. Black 
families are occasionally run out of previously all-white neighborhoods 
upon receiving a 12-gauge "salute" from hooded bullies down the block. 

5 



Introduction 



Whatever one's guess of Klan influence, the cross burns bright in many 
a white Carolinian's heart. The notion of evangelical Christianity leads to 
suspicion of others as "less than Christian.'" One needn't travel far to view 
outsiders as doing the Devil's work. In the town of Oxford until recently, 
the Klan rallied its forces after church services on Sunday. With God and 
R.J. Reynolds on their side, preachers in Winston-Salem admonish the 
heathen and the believers in the tobacco plants against joining trade 
unions. One Tarheel native, the Reverend Billy Graham, allows as how 
the "signs are now in place" for the second coming of Christ. Among 
those signs are such things as worldwide rebellion, greed and "problems 
for which there are no human solutions." 5 

Many years ago the Brothers Grimm turned a scum-laden toad into a 
lovely prince for the benefit of children the world around. And more 
recently the National Rifle Association has grown to mammoth propor- 
tions on the premise of shooting as a form of peaceful recreation. But 
sorcery in the form of public relations has no equal to the power structure 
of North Carolina. In 1963, eight years after the censure of Joseph 
McCarthy by the United States Senate, the North Carolina legislature 
passed a bill banning from state-supported schools speakers who 1) were 
members of the Communist Party; 2) advocated the overthrow of the 
U.S. Constitution; or 3) pleaded "the Fifth Amendment of the Constitu- 
tion in refusing to answer questions with respect to Communist or 
subversive activities." 6 This peculiar legislation, which adroitly "pro- 
tected" the Constitution against potential overthrow, and simul- 
taneously overthrows the Constitution itself, perfectly illustrates the 
unitarianism of the Old-New South. Dr. Herbert Aptheker, a Commu- 
nist leader with a long history of campus speaking engagements, recalled 
his experiences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "the 
Harvard of the South" and the single institution most responsible for the 
state's progressive image. Aptheker remembered, "I had spoken at 
Chapel Hill as early as 1946 and 1947 as a Party spokesman. At the time 
there was no speakers ban but UNC was all white. I argued that any all- 
white institution could not be a university, that this was a contradiction 
in terms. I was waylaid and physically assaulted for mere exercise of the 
Constitution. By the time I spoke there in 1964, 1 was waylaid by the law. 
Banned from speaking on the campus, I had to speak onto it from a 
Chapel Hill sidewalk." 7 

The First and Fifth Amendments are not the only ones to experience 
mayhem at the hands of North Carolina justice. In late 1974, three high 
school students carted off two dozen bottles of soda without paying, 
from a gas station near Elizabeth City. The students, all first offenders, 

6 



Introduction 

were sentenced to a five-year waiver of Fourth Amendment guarantees 
against illegal search and seizure. Under the sentence, their homes, 
automobiles and persons may now be stopped, searched, and entered 
without warrants or probable cause by any law enforcement officer. The 
Pasquotank County district attorney said that waivers of the Fourth 
Amendment are common in that part of the state. They are used "to 
encourage folks to walk the straight and narrow," he said. In another 
1974 case, the state Court of Appeals ruled valid the deprivation of the 
Fourth Amendment. 8 

Stern indeed is discipline in this bastion of progressivism. A major 
controversy developed in the 1974 General Assembly over a bill to limit 
spanking of students by teachers in the schools. A compromise bill was 
finally submitted to a House education subcommittee which called for 
spanking "only as a last resort," limited the number of school personnel 
allowed to spank, required a witness be present during corporal punish- 
ment, and required record-keeping of punishment. The bill never got out 
of committee. After public arguments favoring spanking as a method of 
relieving tension and establishing good rapport with pupils, Representa- 
tive Sam Bundy of Pitt County pronounced the clinching argument: 
"Teachers file enough reports already," he said. 9 

Recalling bygone days of posses and bounty hunters, North Carolina 
is the only state in the union that retains a statute that deputizes the 
citizenry and allows officers to shoot a designated felon on sight. Enacted 
in 1868, the law tells the outlaw that any citizen "may slay him without 
accusation or impeachment of any crime." Moreover, a felony suspect 
may be declared an outlaw before he has been convicted if a judge deems 
"convincing" evidence of his guilt. Any judge or any two justices of the 
peace can declare a suspect an outlaw. While prison guards are only 
allowed to shoot felons, not misdemeanants, a misdemeanant becomes a 
felon if he tries to escape. 10 In "the goodliest land under the cope of 
heaven," it is estimated that at least half t he adult population maintains a 
private collection of arms. 

Still, it would be a serious miscalculation to believe that the problem of 
North Carolina and the New South is a population made up of what H. 
L. Mencken sneeringly described as "howling yokels" and "homo boo- 
biens." 



7 



One 



I would invite those who have criticized us to look at 
North Carolina. Look at our people. People, working 
side by side for common goals. Look in our schools, 
look in our factories, look at what's happening in our 
neighborhoods and our communities. 

Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. 



you drive along Interstate highway 85 heading north from Dur- 
ham, about 18 miles out you will pass a large red, white and blue billboard 
that reads: "Welcome to Granville County. Ku Klux Klan Country. Help 
Fight Integration and Communism." The billboard pictures a white 
knight atop a white horse. On 1-95 outside of Benson, another highway 
sign announces, "You are Now Entering the Heart of Klan Country. 
Welcome to North Carolina." Until 1977, a similar billboard would 
welcome you to Johnston County, with the added feature of a border of 
red and white blinking lights. The Granville County Klan is not so 
ostentatious. 

Just past its billboard, as you turn off 1-85, you come onto the 
Jefferson Davis Highway which brings you into Oxford, seat of Gran- 
ville County. One of the 5 counties in North Carolina with more than 
10,000 slaves, Granville was one of 16 in the state with majority Black 
populations during the Reconstruction years. Consequently it was one of 
the 26 Republican counties. Today, only 40 percent of the county is 
Black; half the county's families earn less than $4,000 a year. Granville 
has been known for a century for its ideal soil, which produces the finest 
Bright leaf tobacco in the entire country, a reputation that caught the 
notice of Buck Duke, R.J. Reynolds and the other captains of the 
industry in the nineteenth century. Hence Oxford and nearby Henderson 
were the sites of the first expansion of the emerging Carolina Power and 
Light Company at the turn of the century. 

Entering Oxford today, you first pass the spinning plants of Bur- 
lington Mills, which are said by the townsfolk to run Granville County. 
Just past the mills is the Welcome Gas Station, a combination filling 
station-general store-gun shop, said to be a local gathering place for 
members of the United Klans of America, Inc. Just north of Oxford, 
Robert G. Teel, a local Klan leader, owned a mini-shopping center in a 
Black community called Brown-town. Here it was that Teel, his son and 
his stepson set upon Henry Lee Marrow, a Black Vietnam veteran, whom 
they accused of insulting Mr. Teefs wife. After shooting Henry Marrow 

11 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

just above the kneecap, the Teel men beat in Marrow's skull as he lay 
bleeding on the ground. Finally young Larry Teel ended the business by 
blowing Marrow's head off. 

A block and a half after you pass the Welcome Gas Station you come 
to Oxford's town square which contains — as do the town squares in the 
seats of most of the state's 100 counties and the state capital square — an 
obelisk with the inscribed dedication, "To Our Confederate Dead." A 
few blocks north of the obelisk is what appears to be a small New 
England college campus. This is the Oxford Orphanage — officially the 
White Orphanage until 1971— which raised white parentless children 
from all over the state at the expense of the Duke Endowment. But if you 
drive south of the town square and head out beyond the Oxford town 
limits, you will come to a cluster of red-brick buildings in need of repair, 
standing in a field of patchy grass and weeds. This is the Central 
Orphanage, formerly the Colored Orphanage, set up separately and 
unequally, also by the will and with the largesse of James B. Duke. 

For years, Mrs. Elizabeth Chavis taught at the Colored Orphanage. 
Mrs. Chavis lives right down the road in a sprawling Victorian house 
which has belonged to her family since Reconstruction, as testified to by 
some two dozen gravesites a couple of hundred yards into the pine woods 
in back. Mrs. Chavis was born Elizabeth Ridley, her people originally 
having been brought as slaves from Africa via the West Indies to 
Granville County. In the backyard of the house is a well, now covered 
over, which, Mrs. Chavis remembers being told as a child, served as a 
watering hole for hooded Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, to refresh their 
horses after returning from Oxford's Lynch Hill. 

Elizabeth Ridley received her education at the all-Black North Car- 
olina Central College in Durham and became a schoolteacher. Her 
husband Ben, a graduate of St. Augustine College, a Black Episcopalian 
school in Raleigh, also taught school for a while, although he was a brick 
mason by trade. Ben Chavis was a descendent of John Chavis, said by 
historian John Hope Franklin to be "the most prominent free Negro in 
North Carolina." Born in Oxford in 1763, John Chavis was educated at 
Princeton as a Latin and Greek scholar. As W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, "In 
1802, his freedom and character were certified to and it was declared that 
he had passed 'through a regular course of academic studies' at what is 
now Washington and Lee University." John Chavis returned to North 
Carolina in 1805, where he became a preacher in the Presbyterian church. 
"His English was remarkably pure," wrote Du Bois, "his manner impres- 
sive, his explanations clear and concise." His career as a minister ended in 
1832 when, following Nat Turner's insurrection, free Negroes were 

12 



One 



prohibited from preaching. John Chavis turned then to teaching— white 
children by day, Black children at night. Among his former students were 
a U.S. senator, two sons of a Supreme Court justice, and Charles 
Manley, later governor of the state. Eventually North Carolina passed a 
law banning Blacks from teaching, so John Chavis set up an under- 
ground school in the town of Hillsborough, near Chapel Hill. 

After retiring from the school system in the early 1960s, Ben Chavis 
built the Ridley Drive-In restaurant on the family property. The town of 
Oxford being shy of recreational facilities for Black folks, people came 
from all over to the Drive-In as a place to hang out and socialize. In back 
of the Drive-In and before you come to the graveyard in the woods, sits 
an empty lot which serves as the Black baseball field for Oxford's young 
people. Before he died in 1965, Ben Chavis was the local Black scoutmas- 
ter and baseball coach, his troops and his teams using the Drive-in as 
their center. 

Mrs. Chavis's immaculately furnished living room is filled with pic- 
tures of her children, and with relics of the Episcopal Church in which 
they were raised. The eldest, June, converted to Catholicism when she 
married, and moved to Charlotte where she too is a schoolteacher. 
Helen, the second daughter, received her PhD. at the University of 
Wisconsin, and now is also in Charlotte where she chairs the Humanities 
Department at Johnson C. Smith University. The youngest of the Chavis 
children, Francine, attended the University of North Carolina at Greens- 
boro but was forced to leave in the middle of her senior year because of 
her involvement in civil rights activities. Francine is now studying 
medicine in the German Democratic Republic. 

In the corner of Francine's old bedroom stands a shotgun which, 
before she went abroad to study, she had needed more than a few times to 
protect her mother from Klansmen who drove by the house to shout 
insults and taunts. For Mrs. Chavis is also the mother of Francine's older 
brother, the Reverend Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr. Growing up a boy 
scout in his father's troop, assistant coach to his father's baseball team, 
product of Oxford's "colored" school system, and lifelong friend of the 
murdered Henry Lee Marrow, the Rev. Chavis made the 1972 volume of 
Outstanding Young Men of America. His biographical sketch in the 
book tells us the following: "Born January 22, 1948. Education, Univer- 
sity of North Carolina, B. A. 1970. Labor organizer AFL-CIO, 1967-68. 
Southern Christian Leadership Conference organizer, 1968-69. Com- 
mission for Racial Justice, Director, United Church of Christ Commu- 
nity Program, 1970. First African Temple of the Black Messiah, founder, 
pastor, 1971. American Chemical Society, 1969. Granville County Demo- 

13 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

cratic Party precinct chairman, 1970. SCLC Education Fund, board of 
directors, 1972. President, founder, Black Student Union, 1968. Presi- 
dent, UNC Student Union, 1968. Candidate, City Council, Charlotte, 
N.C., 1969." Perhaps unbeknownst to the compilers of Outstanding 
Young Men of America — the volume was Foreworded by Richard 
Nixon's presidential press secretary Ronald Ziegler — was that, at the 
time of publication, Rev. Chavis was serving the first of 34 years in prison 
on conspiracy charges growing out of his defense, together with nine co- 
workers, of a church in the Black community of Wilmington, N.C., 
under a four-day armed siege by the Ku Klux Klan and other racist 
fanatics. 

At the Oxford house, Mrs. Chavis stores every issue of Chemistry 
News for her son while he sits in prison. She once told an interviewer 
about Ben, Jr. as a child, "My, yes, he was always trying to put something 

together." 



In the New Dixie, old times there are not forgotten. "In its grand 
outlines, the politics of the South revolve around the position of the 
Negro," wrote Professor V.O. Key back in 1949. "The hard core of the 
political South — and the backbone of southern political unity — is made 
up of those counties and sections of the Southern states in which Negroes 
constitute a substantial proportion of the population." In these areas, 
which make up what was once called "the Black Belt" and which include 
the eastern third of North Carolina from the Virginia stateline to South 
Carolina, "The situation resembles fundamentally that of the Dutch in 

the East Indies or the former position of the British in India As in the 

case of the colonials, that white minority can maintain its position only 
with the support, and by the tolerance, of those outside — in the home 
country or in the rest of the United States." 1 

A quarter-century after those words were written their essence remains 
true. One cannot hope to understand the U nited States, the South, North 
Carolina or Ben Chavis, without the knowledge, firmly grasped, that 
Black people today are descendants of slaves, and white people are not. 

Even in the course of the colonial revolution that formed the United 
States, that power relationship held. North Carolina historians still 
proudly proclaim that among the 13 original colonies, theirs had more 
loyalists to the Crown than any other. In the course of the revolution 
against British rule, these loyalists held nothing more dear than the King, 
with the single exception of the institution of chattel slavery. In the 

14 



One 



summer of 1775, while the colonies were in revolt against the King, slaves 
in North Carolina were in revolt against their bondage. Hundreds, 
possibly thousands, of slaves in Beaufort, Pitt and Craven counties were 
executed, whipped, branded or had their ears cut off in a wave of 
repression against these slave revolts. 2 Elsewhere, some slaves were 
allowed to join the colonial army in exchange for which they won their 
freedom. 

As throughout the South, the spirit of freedom in North Carolina 
expressed itself in numerous slave rebellions in the decades before and 
following independence from England. Groups of maroons — fugitive 
slaves engaged in guerrilla warfare against the "peculiar institution" — 
roamed through North Carolina in the early nineteenth century. In the 
area near Wilmington, runaway slaves gathered under the leadership of a 
man called the "General of the Swamps" at the turn of the century. 
Another Black fugitive, Tom Cooper, led bands in the region of Eliz- 
abeth City. In his seminal work, American Negro Slave Revolts, histo- 
rian Herbert Aptheker estimates that in the year 1802, at least 15 slave 
rebels were executed, scores arrested and tortured as a result of reported 
"slave conspiracies" in 10 North Carolina counties. 3 Later in 1804, slaves 
rose up in Johnston, Sampson and Wayne counties, for which some 20 
slaves were arrested. One, a woman, was burned alive, 3 or 4 others were 
hanged, one "was pilloried, whipped, his ears nailed down and then cut 
off," one was banished, the others lashed. 4 Maroon detachments in 
Onslow, Carteret and Bladen counties mounted a rebellion in 1821, led by 
a Black called Isam, "alias General Jackson," who was later captured and 
lashed to death in a public execution. 5 

In 1829, David Walker, born the son of a slave in Wilmington, issued 
his "Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World," a manifesto for the 
"total abolition of slavery" which became the catalyst for the embryonic 
abolitionist movement. Published in Boston, the Appeal found its way 
into Walker's home state. Copies were reported to have been found by 
police in Fayetteville, Wilmington, Chapel Hill, New Bern and Hills- 
borough. Spies were used by the governor to try to discover who were its 
distributors, among them the Reverend John Chavis. In 1830, the state 
passed a law to forbid the teaching of reading and writing to slaves. Laws 
were passed requiring heavy penalties — death for slaves — for those 
engaged in distributing anti-slavery materials. The state required all 
Blacks emancipated after 1830 to leave North Carolina within 90 days. 6 

The state legislature convened secretly to develop methods of subdu- 
ing the growing disaffection of the Black population. In the end, 
increased repression in the form of strengthened militias was all the 

is 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

established order was able to come up with. Slaves suspected of insubor- 
dination were arbitrarily executed. The slaveholders saw insurrection 
from every quarter. A state judge rendering an opinion in 1852 demon- 
strated the siege mentality: "What acts in a slave towards a white person 
will amount to insolence, it is manifestly impossible to define — it may 
consist in a look, the pointing of a finger, a refusal or neglect to step out 
of the way when a white person is seen to approach. But each of such acts 
violates the rules of propriety, and if tolerated, would destroy that 
subordination, upon which our social system rests." 7 Clearly, when push 
came to war over whether to maintain or break up the slave system, 
North Carolina would be voted among those most likely to secede. 

When the Confederacy was defeated on the battlefield, President 
Andrew Johnson of North Carolina, successor to the murdered Lincoln, 
received a petition from Blacks in his home state who had fought 
alongside the Union army. The petitioners prayed for "the privilege of 
voting" for they who were "willing on the field of danger to carry the 
Republic's muskets, in the days of Peace ought to be permitted to carry 
its ballots." 8 In September 1865, four months after the petition was 
submitted, the first freed men's convention in North Carolina met at 
Raleigh. About 350,000 Blacks in the state had been freed by the 
Thirteenth Amendment and, at great personal risk, their 120 delegates 
now came in secrecy under cover of night, some receiving safe-conduct 
papers from the federal military authorities. This convention of former 
slaves hailed the passage of the anti-slavery amendment to the Constitu- 
tion, the recognition of Liberia and Haiti by Washington, and the 
admission of a Black attorney to the state bar. More, it demanded wages 
for labor, free education for the children, protection of the family, and 
the repeal of all discriminatory legislation. 9 

The next year, the state legislature, in a bid to be received back into the 
federal union, enacted a code legalizing Black marriages and safeguard- 
ing the rights of Blacks in making contracts. Still, they were denied the 
right to vote or the right to testify in court. Late in the year, the legislature 
voted overwhelmingly against the Fourteenth Amendment, which would 
grant Blacks citizenship and deny public office to anyone who had 
supported the Confederacy. Support of the amendment was the congres- 
sional requirement for admission back into the union. Congress then 
passed the Reconstruction Acts over the protests and veto of President 
Johnson. Southern state governments were temporarily suspended, 
pending the adoption of new state constitutions. Military law was 
imposed to implement Reconstruction. After the occupation of Raleigh, 
President Johnson appointed William W. Holden as provisional gover- 

16 



One 



nor to replace Zebulon Vance, who was arrested and imprisoned for 
several weeks. The reaction was predictable. Governor Jonathan Worth, 
who defeated Holden in the subsequent election, declared: "1 abhor the 
Democratic tendency of our government. 1 use the word in its proper, not 
its party, sense. The tendency is to ignore virtue and property and 
intelligence — and to put the powers of government into the hands of 
mere numbers. . . Men will be governed by their interests. The majority in 
all times and all countries are improvident and without property." 10 

The Republican Party was organized in 1867 and chose Holden as its 
gubernatorial candidate in 1868. Running on a platform of support for 
the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and for universal public 
education, Holden won the election, the first in which the state legislature 
was chosen on the basis of population per district, not wealth. 

With the Republican victory, the Ku Klux Klan rose up in 1868, 
particularly in Alamance and Caswell counties where the Republicans 
showed increasing strength. Called the Constitutional Union Guard 
(CUG) in Lenoir County, the Klan was led by Jesse Kennedy, a wealthy 
mill owner and by deputy sheriff A. Munroe. Among its activities were 
stealing horses from Black farmers, preventing whites from working 
alongside Blacks, and assassinating Republican leaders, particularly 
Black Republicans. Lynchings became commonplace; ears were taken 
from the victims as proof of their accomplishments. A public barbecue 
was given to celebrate the assassination by the CUG of Jones County 
Sheriff O.R. Colgrove, a Northerner who supported Reconstruction. In 
Moore County, in which both the sheriff and superior court clerk were 
Klan members, numerous houses and barns were burned down to drive 
out Black and white Republicans. One Black woman and her five 
children were shot before their house was set afire. One participant in the 
lynching admitted to having "killed one of the children by kicking its 
brains out with the heel of his boot," according to a local news story. In 
Alamance County, a Black man was given 150 lashes and his baby was 
clubbed to death. Black farmers were kidnapped and hanged by gangs of 
75 or 100 Klansmen. County Sheriff Albert Murray, all of his deputies 
and Alamance's representative in the legislature were members of the 
White Brotherhood. Frederick Strudwick, an Orange County lawyer, led 
a party of Klansmen in a plot to assassinate a Republican state senator 
who had drafted a law permitting the governor to proclaim a state of 
insurrection in areas of Klan terrorism. Strudwick failed in the attempted 
murder, but he was soon elected to the legislature where he led a 
movement which repealed the act and impeached the governor for 
having used it. 

17 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Scores of baby-stompings, castrations, whippings and lynchings by 
Klansmen brought Republican demands on Governor Holden to use the 
militia against the Klan. But most of the victims were Black, and Holden 
was reluctant to crush the counterrevolution. Hundreds of freedmen 
formed their own militia units. Still Klan terror ruled the day, as well as 
the sheriffs departments and county courthouses where Klansmen held 
public office. More people were wounded or killed by Klan barbarism 
than on the fields of Gettysburg but the federal government refused to 
send troops to put down the KKK. Finally, Governor Holden sent in 
militia units made up of white mountaineers and Blacks. Hundreds of 
Klansmen were arrested, only to be freed by the courts. In 1870, the 
Democrats won a huge majority of the legislature, which promptly 
impeached Governor Holden for using the militia against the Klan. He 
thus became the first state governor ever impeached in U.S. history. 
During the impeachment proceedings, KKK activity reached its peak. 
An elderly white man who had given land to his former slaves was 
whipped and forced to walk home five miles naked in the cold. A white 
couple who had given an acre of land for a Black school were forced to 
burn down the building in front of a Klan audience. 

The Klan was hardly made up of the stereotyped poor white "red- 
neck." Rather, the leaders of the Democratic Party, mill owners, leading 
lawyers and elected officials, and the law enforcement authorities com- 
prised its central core and its leadership. Every newspaper in the state 
save two supported the wave of terror. With the ascendency to power by 
the Democrats, there was no longer a need for the Klan and it faded in 
importance. 1 1 The state machinery itself could now be used to protect the 
established order. On a national level, the Republican Rutherford B. 
Hayes was elected president in 1876 on a promise to the South of the 
withdrawal of federal troops. Northern industry, in full support of 
Hayes, began its movement south. Reconstruction was destroyed, wage 
slavery replaced chattel slavery, prison labor replaced slave labor, jim 
crow law replaced vigilante law. 

By 1900 the poll tax and "grandfather clause" were in effect. To legalize 
the violent overthrow of Reconstruction, the authorities disenfranchised 
Black voters. The grandfather clause, a key ingredient in this witches 
brew of conspiracy, prevented anyone from voting whose grandfather 
had not, thereby keeping the state safe from democracy. Faced with the 
terror of the state apparatus, not one of the 18 majority-Black counties in 
North Carolina defeated the disenfranchisement amendment to the state 
constitution. In New Hanover County, which embraces Wilmington, 
with its 50.8 percent Black majority, only two votes were registered 

18 



One 



against disenfranchisement. 12 The new industrial ruling class, in com- 
mand of the Democratic Party, was now firmly in control of the state. 

Moreover, the Klan's glorification of white supremacy increased its 
hold on the minds of whites throughout the United States. In 1905, a 
North Carolinian, Thomas Dixon, published a romantic novel, The 
Clansman, which became a runaway best-seller. Ten years later, D.W. 
Griffith turned the book into the most popular movie of its time, The 
Birth of a Nation. Heady with the success of the movie, the Klan rose 
again as a national phenomenon, extending its catalogue of hatreds to 
include Jews, Catholics, labor unions, immigrant workers and radicals. 
As Klan membership reached a peak of as many as eight million, 13 
President Woodrow Wilson wrote to a church editor that segregation 
was "distinctly to the advantage of the colored people themselves." 14 

Halfway into the twentieth century, a petition charging the United 
States with genocide against Black people, bearing the names of dozens 
of leaders of civil and human rights movements, was submitted to the 
United Nations in Paris and in New York by William L. Patterson and 
Paul Robeson. Documenting hundreds of lynchings of Blacks 
throughout the United States and especially in the South, the roster of 
mayhem in North Carolina read like that which defeated Reconstruction 
50 years earlier. In the late 1940s, for example, Willie Pittman, a taxi 
driver, was found mutilated near Rocky Mount. His legs and arms had 
been cut off, his body split open, his head smashed. In Lillington, Charles 
Smith was killed by two whites who also shot and wounded five other 
Black people. A jury freed the murderers after 27 minutes of deliberation. 
Otis Newsom, a 25-year-old war veteran from Wilson and father of three 
children, was shot and killed for no apparent reason by a white gas 
station operator. A North Carolina A and T student died an hour after 
being refused admittance to Duke Hospital in Durham following an auto \ 
accident. Another veteran was shot dead near Bailey by a posse of two 
dozen men who swooped down on him in eight cars. He had been waiting 
for a bus. Still another Black vet, Paul Dorsey, was assaulted in 
Waynesville by 4 whites who ordered him off a bus and into their 
automobile. A lynch mob of 400 persons planned to murder Dorsey, 
until the police intervened. Dorsey was arrested however while the 
potential lynchers went free. 15 

The years of these attacks against Black veterans of World War Two 
were the years of Ben Chavis's early childhood. Twenty years later, a 
friend of that childhood, Henry Lee Marrow, a veteran of Vietnam, 
returned home to Oxford. A few months later he too was murdered by 
local merchants, members of the Klan. Ben Chavis had by now passed 

19 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

through his formative years and decided he must make his ideals a reality 
rather than simply upholding them. More than merely refrain from evil, 
he had determined that it was more honorable to fight it. 



B en had started putting things together at a very early age, by sneaking 
in to listen to adult conversations about one or another incident involv- 
ing a white man doing a Black man wrong in Oxford. "The term 'Black,'" 
he now recalls, "was a bad word. I felt I was a colored person. And 
properly known as a Negro." When the family or friends would talk 
about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 
(NAACP) they would lower their voices to a whisper because it was 
known as a subversive organization. Many of them held NAACP 
membership cards but nobody dared to carry them in their wallets. 

Ben was six years old when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954, in 
X Brown v. Board of Education, that school segregation was illegal. But the 
law of the land wasn't applied in North Carolina, let alone Oxford, until 
after he'd graduated high school. So he was raised on separate libraries, a 
new brick building for whites, a small wooden shack for Blacks; on 
sitting in the balcony and paying more for movies; on water fountains 
painted white or black; on not being allowed to sit at eating counters even 
when there were empty seats. 

Oxford contained one slum area called the Stronghold, where Black 
people were forced to live in old school buses. Young Ben couldn't 
understand why some kids had to live in old buses while he and others 
could go home to their houses. He learned that the Stronghold folks were 
mainly mill laborers and tobacco farmers. Mornings, he would watch the 
wagons heading out to the tobacco fields, working the plantations for 
rich white owners. They were bound to the fields by indebtedness. Year 
after year they would have to work the fields if they expected credit at the 
grocery store, if they expected to meet their medical bills. Many of Ben's 
schoolmates lived in shanties, trapped as "tenants" on these farms. They 
couldn't come to school until the late Fall, after tobacco season. Then 
they'd have to leave school in mid-Spring to go to the fields again. 
Eventually they missed too much school to continue. 

Ben went to school his first years at the Colored Orphanage because it 
was more convenient for Mrs. Chavis, who taught there. Those like Ben 
who had homes to go to after school called themselves "outside kids," 
and the orphans "inside kids." Many of the orphans didn't have shoes, 
and Ben went to school barefooted so as not to accent the difference. 



20 



One 



One of his earliest memories is of riding to Henderson, just a few miles 
from Oxford, with his father and his sister June's husband, Marvin 
Davenport. Ben was sitting in the back seat, looking out the window, and 
he could see men with rifles and olive-green uniforms of the National 
Guard. The Harriet-Henderson Cotton Mill strike was on and little Ben 
saw his first picket line. Broken glass covered the streets, the result of 
violence brought on by the company's importing of scab labor to break 
the strike. Ben can't remember his dad's exact conversation with Marvin, 
but recalls their sympathy with the workers, both Black and white. 

In her autobiography, Cnelia, Cornelia Wallace, former wife of 
Governor George, offers an apologia for segregation as "a way of life": 
"Once the change began to be forced, the relations between Blacks and 
whites became strained and uneasy." But growing up in strictly segre- 
gated Oxford, for Ben Chavis Black-white relations were "strained and 
uneasy" as they'd ever been or ever would be. One night during his tenth- 
grade year at the all-Black Mary Potter High School, Ben left the school 
Softball field to go to the corner store for a soda-pop. The store was 
attached to a service station and, as Ben was getting his bottle out of the 
machine, a carload of white men pulled into the station. Before he knew 
what was happening, the men jumped out of the car and were upon him, 
beating him bloody. 

When the men left, Ben ran back to the softball game to tell his friends 
what happened. They all grabbed baseball bats, sticks or whatever 
makeshift weapons they could find and headed for the Three Way 
Restaurant, the white hoodlums' hangout across the street from the 
White Orphanage. Ben had maybe 30 friends with him as they ap- 
proached the Three Way, but of course they were now in hostile territory, 
outside their own turf. Before they were able to find the men who had 
beaten him, the police were called in and Ben was brought down to the 
station with his father, to tell the tale of the beating. The assailants were 
described and identified, but the police would not let Mr. Chavis swear 
out an arrest warrant. "One thing I'll never forget," says Ben, now grown. 
"What hurt me more than the beating was the expression on my father's 
face when he realized that the police weren't going to do anything. I think 
my father still believed that the system would bring about some justice. 
That's why he came to the police station and gave this long statement, 
real detailed, for about an hour." When Mr. Chavis and Ben returned 
home, Mrs. Chavis was being treated for a mild heart attack, brought on 
by alarmist rumors about Ben being badly stabbed during the beating. 

From that time on, Ben started to notice things more. Little things, like 
driving into a gas station with his father, the teenage attendant calling 
Mr. Chavis "boy," the middle-aged attendant calling his father "uncle." 

21 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

As his rage built, Ben decided to act on it. The new all-white Thorton 
Library had just been built. Black kids used to just walk past the library. 
There wasn't any sign saying "whites only," but it was understood by the 
Black community that they weren't supposed to go there. Ben's position 
was, "I ain't seen no sign saying it was all white. County building, I was 
going in there. So I persuaded some dudes to go with me. 1 went up and 
said, 'I want a library card, I'm a student here, I pay taxes for this 
building, I want a card.' Sort of shocked the little old white lady behind 
the desk. She tried to put me off but I said I wasn't going nowhere until I 
got a library card." The woman called the head librarian and he gave Ben 
a card. Just like that. The next day, more Black students, 15 or so, went in 
and got library cards. The library was desegregated from then on. A week 
later Ben and his friends took on the local moviehouse in like fashion. 
Threatened with arrest when they sat in the white section, they ignored 
the threat and nothing ever happened. Except that never again was the 
theatre to have all-white seating arrangements. 

One day Ben and Mrs. Chavis were downtown in the Williams 
Drugstore for a refreshment after completing their shopping. Mrs. 
Chavis had bought graduation presents for some of the students at the 
orphanage. Her presents were stacked in a pile while they awaited 
service, but the waitress, instead of serving them, was scolding a young 
Black boy for sitting down at the counter. As Ben recalls, "This was 
about the first time I saw my mother get really angry. She just threw the 
packages down on the floor and said she wasn't going to buy anything in 
a racist drugstore like this. I just said, right on." 

But the Chavises were hardly militant. Ben knew of course that Martin 
Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X existed, because Ebony reported their 
activities. But there were no organizations in Oxford to join. The 
Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was active elsewhere, but even so it 
was not a membership organization. N AACP meetings were held mainly 
for the purpose of raising money to pay bond for people who had been 
arrested, or for their lawyers' fees. The Student Non-Violent Coordinat- 
ing Committee (SNCC) was unheard of until much later, although it had 
been founded on the Shaw University campus in Raleigh in 1960. The 
only time Ben ever heard of Dr. King or CORE was when the radio 
reported some violent outburst against the sit-in movement. 

But things changed in 1963 when Ben got his driver's license. He now 
had some mobility, some contact with things outside of Oxford. He 
would hear of demonstrations through a grapevine of telephone contacts 
in other cities, and would drive to them in his parents' car although they 
were never told his destination. When word came of a demonstration in 



22 



One 

Greensboro, a rally in Durham, a picketline in Raleigh, Ben would try to 
get there. 

In 1964, the state legislature passed the Communist speakers' ban, 
barring from state campuses any member of the Communist Party or 
anyone who had used the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for 
protection against self-incrimination before head-hunting congressional 
committees. McCarthyism was frozen into time and color in North 
Carolina, like a stained-glass window. A decade after speakers' bans were 
imposed in other states, and years after they had already been lifted 
elsewhere, the burghers of Raleigh sought to outlaw anything more 
controversial than opposition to muscular dystrophy. About this time, 
Dr. Herbert Aptheker, a noted historian on the pre- and post-Civil War 
period and a Communist Party leader, had gained a reputation as a 
campus lecturer, a determined challenger to all such proscriptions 
against his right to speak. Now Aptheker was invited to Chapel Hill, but 
because of the ban, was forced to address the student body through a 
bull-horn from across the street from the school. Duke University, a 
private institution, fell outside the jurisdiction of the speakers' ban, so he 
was able to speak on that campus. By now Ben was caught up in the 
controversy. He and a group of friends went to hear the Communist who 
was defying the ban. Cars came from all over the state, as did the highway 
patrol and local cops who circled the campus at the bidding of a state 
government which was clearly at sea with concerns of the intellect. Ben 
was about to graduate from high school and his intellectual thirst was 
being quenched. 

A decision on college had to be made. Ben's frequent trips to the state 
capitol city of Raleigh acquainted him with St. Augustine's College, the 
all-Black Episcopal school of his father and his sisters June and Helen. 
Upon graduation from high school, he knew, this was where he'd come to 
study. From the beginning however, things were wrong for Ben at "St. 
Aug's." A month after school started that Fall of 1965, Ben Chavis, Sr. 
died. Young Ben's emotional state was fragile. He was angry with himself 
for not spending more time with his father, always postponing to a later 
date the talks he wanted with the old man. It had been a long time since 
his father was scoutmaster to Ben's pack of boy scouts. 

Ben's response was to throw himself into his studies. A chemistry 
major, he made the dean's list in his freshman year and was elected 
president of his sophomore class for the following autumn. But he felt 
confined by the self-containment and the strictures of homogeneity of a 
small, private school. He withdrew from St. Augustine's and headed for 
Charlotte, the largest city in North Carolina, where his sister June was 
now living. 



23 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

It was too late in the semester to enroll at another school. So his first 
months in Charlotte were for Ben a series of temporary and part-time 
jobs — laboratory technician in a chemical plant, stockman and salesman 
in a shoestore, dishwasher and short-order cook in a diner. He knew he 
was biding his time, gathering his energies and his will, preparing for his 
entrance to school at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 
(UNCC), one of the first Black enrollees and the first in chemistry. 

Ben had never in his 18 years sat in class with a white student before 
UNCC. He knew he would be alone, on the fringe of campus life. Of 
several thousand students, only eight were Black, four of those part-time, 
the others freshmen except Ben. They were curiosities. The white stu- 
dents stared at Ben and he would stare at them. But because of his studies 
at St. Augustine's and reading he had done on his own, he did well in the 
lab and the classroom. The white students were surprised and began to 
approach Ben to join their study groups. 

If he took the campus by surprise, the campus returned the favor to 
Ben. The Vietnam War had stirred students across the country as they 
had never been moved before and, if St. Augustine's was an exception, 
UNCC was not. Ben's first day on campus set the pattern for his days at 
the university. Leaflets were being distributed announcing an anti-war 
meeting that evening and he decided to go. A new organization, the 
Southern Students Organizing Committee, based in Tennessee, had just 
sent a representative to Hanoi. Lynn Wells had brought back with her a 
film of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and was now making a 
Southern campus tour. The university would not let her speak without 
sponsorship of a campus organization and no existing group would 
sponsor her. So a new group emerged, Students for Action, for the 
purpose of inviting Lynn Wells to UNCC. Ben Chavis was chosen vice- 
president of Students for Action. If Fidel Castro had come to Charlotte, 
a greater commotion would not have erupted. Never had a peace 
symposium been held in the Queen City. Students from all the area 
colleges and the television newspeople came to hear this audacious 
display of sentiment against the Vietnam terror. Also making their 
presence felt were State Bureau of Investigation dicks and the men of the 
Charlotte police department's Red Squad, under the direction of Lt. A. 
T. Europa. This was Ben's introduction to the "intelligence community," 
the beginning of a not so beautiful relationship. In a matter of days, 
sleepy Charlotte awoke to find its main university campus radicalized. 
Students for Action decided to affiliate with the Southern Students 
Organizing Committee and Ben soon became president of the UNCC 
chapter. 

24 



One 

While he was becoming active at UNCC, Ben made the acquaintance 
of some students at Charlotte's all-Black Johnson C. Smith University. 
Among these were T. J. Reddy, one of the South's best young poets, and 
Charles Parker, a high school honor student, band musician and basket- 
ball player. T.J. and CP. were eventually to follow Ben to UNCC the 
next year where they would join Students for Action. But this October of 
1967, T.J. and three others, including Vicky Minar, a white VISTA 
worker who would soon become T. J. 's wife, went horseback riding at the 
Lazy B Stables on the perimeter of Charlotte. Jim Crow was still the rule 
in North Carolina's private recreation centers and the stable manager 
refused to let the Black students mount his horses. That night, word of 
the incident got to Students for Action, which immediately called a 
meeting to determine what action to take. Picket signs were constructed, 
magic-markers applied to slogans, and transportation arranged to the 
stable for the next day. When T.J., Vicky, CP. and Ben returned to the 
Lazy B with Students for Action, the stable manager called in the police. 
But the picket demonstration continued. After the news media arrived, 
cameras and all, the manager relented and allowed CP. to ride for the 
photographers. Students for Action could claim another victory; the 
Lazy B was desegregated and the whole city saw it on TV or in the 
Observer or the News. 

On campus Ben pursued public office. While heading up Students for 
Action, he ran for student union president and won by 14 votes. In his 
new post he planned all the lecture series and social activities to accom- 
pany the intellectual bread of the classroom. For the first time Black 
entertainers like Little Anthony and the Imperials and the Impressions 
performed at UNCC. The school's lecture committee invited Barry 
Goldwater to speak that Spring and it was Ben's responsibility to host the 
Air Force general and junior senator from Arizona. As president of the 
student union, Ben felt responsible to his appointed task and introduced 
Goldwater to his audience, welcomed him to UNCC, hoped his stay 
would be pleasant. A school reception in honor of the invited speaker 
followed at the Charlotte Country Club, as segregated then and today as 
its counterpart in Capetown. Ben Chavis, student union president, was 
not invited. 

In Charlotte's Black community, the state's largest, folks were con- 
sciously against the war because of the high draft rate and the subsequent 
high casualty rate. Charlotte Citizens for Peace (CCP) was organized 
and marched on the local draft board. Through the CCP, Ben met Dr. 
James Earl Grant, a chemistry professor out of Penn State University, 
now a VISTA volunteer and draft counselor for the American Friends 



25 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Service Committee in Charlotte. Jim Grant convinced Ben of the need to 
counsel Black teenagers on how to avoid the draft. Whites knew how to 
avoid the draft but Blacks did not. They lacked information, didn't know 
they could challenge the draft boards, were unaware of the possibility of 
obtaining conscientious-objector status. 

Meantime, Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy were running for 
President as peace candidates that Winter and Spring of 1967-68, trying 
to win the Democratic nomination from Hubert Humphrey, vice-presi- 
dent and circuit rider in defense of the discredited war policies of 
President Lyndon Johnson. With characteristic abandon, Ben threw 
himself into the Democratic Party in Charlotte. But whereas most Young 
Democrats were stumping for McCarthy, Ben supported Bobby. "Most 
white people in Charlotte hated the Kennedys," Ben now recalls. "I 
remember when President Kennedy was killed, whites in Oxford and 
Raleigh actually held parties to celebrate his death. In retrospect 1 know 
better but at the time I figured that if the racists harbored such hostility 
for Jack and Bobby, they must be doing something right." 

There was of course to be more to celebrate in the klaverns of the Klan 
that Spring, as assassins ended the lives of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
and Bobby Kennedy. Students for Action, under Ben's leadership, held 
memorial services for Dr. King. Ben addressed the service and cried 
throughout his remarks, but with the passing of the non-violent apostle 
there were to be no more tears shed by Ben Chavis. Not for a long while. 
As Black communities rose up in Washington, D.C. and Chicago and 
Detroit and a dozen other cities, so they rose in Wilmington, North 
Carolina. The National Guard was sent in and dropped tear gas on all the 
housing projects in the port city. Ben and some Students for Action 
headed for Wilmington but were denied entrance to the city by a highway 
patrol blockade. Every outlet of expression from electoral campaigning 
to public demonstrations were thus closed to Ben and his friends during 
that eventful spring of their political coming of age. 

During Ben's junior year, more Black students, perhaps 25, entered 
UNCC. When they all joined Students for Action, Ben organized a Black 
caucus within the organization. And while Students for Action and its 
Black caucus developed on campus by day, Ben and Jim Grant moved at 
night to organize the Black Cultural Association (BCA) in Charlotte. 
They found a house at the corner of Oaklawn Street and Statesville 
Avenue, and the Black Cultural Association moved in. The house was 
painted black, and a mural created on the walls with portraits of 
Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois. 

The police could not abide the appearance of the Black House, and a 

26 



One 



round-the-clock stakeout was imposed. The Black Cultural Association 
organized rent strikes, boycotts of price-gouging white merchants in the 
community, pickets of the housing authority, demonstrations at the 
school board for Black studies programs. What started with about 20 
young Black activists grew in the summer months into a movement that 
attracted up to 3,000 citizens to its public meetings. The attraction of the 
Black community to the Black Cultural Association did not go unnoticed 
by the city and state police. As public support grew for the association, so 
did the dossiers on Ben Chavis and Jim Grant. Jim was relieved of his 
VISTA job but retained by the American Friends Service Committee. 

The appearance of Ben's and Jim's activist leadership on the campuses 
and Black communities of Charlotte did not sit easily with the white men 
who controlled that center of the Southern textile industry, and the 
second city of the nation's trucking industry. For the men who ran Duke 
Power and the Wachovia Bank, the license-plate logo "First in Freedom" 
was demonstration enough of the good intentions of the New Southern 
ruling class. Chavis and Grant had other notions. They believed, with 
Archibald Macleish, who wrote in 1949, that, "Revolution, which was 
once a word spoken with pride by every American who had the right to 
claim it, has become a word spoken with timidity and doubt and even 
loathing. And freedom which, in the old days, was something you used 
has now become something you save — something you put away and 
protect like your other possessions — like a deed or a bond in a bank. The 
true test of freedom is in its use. It has no other test." 

In those days, the Charlotte police department was still nearly all- 
white, and any movement in the Black community smacked of outright 
challenge to their notion of "lawnorder," Richard Nixon's presidential 
campaign credo which was gaining currency in the suburbs like beer at a 
fraternity party. One night the police arrested two Black Cultural 
Association members, took them downtown, placed pistols at their 
temples and demanded they confess to a bombing if they didn't want 
their brains drying on the wall the next morning. When the BCA was 
finally able to release the two men, Ben organized a press conference to 
let them tell their story to the city. Even the press was critical of the police 
action, which did little to further endear the BCA to Charlotte's finest. 

That summer, a Black Vietnam veteran named Theodore Alfred Hood 
joined the BCA. Al Hood was the first BCA member that didn't live in 
the Greenville area of Charlotte. Because he was from Griertown, 
another Black community about 10 miles from Greenville, Hood was 
unknown to the BCA leaders. They were to discover later that he had a 
criminal record which included convictions for auto theft, assault with a 

27 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

deadly weapon with intent to kill, carrying a concealed weapon and 
assault on a police officer, not precisely qualifications for admission to 
the Society of Friends. But he was Black, seemingly dedicated to building 
the BCA and was given permission to start a Griertown chapter. Among 
Hood's proteges was Walter David Washington, who had recently been 
discharged from the Marine Corps for being a dangerous schizophrenic. 
Washington's career after the service was more checkered than a ging- 
ham blouse: charged with larceny, damage to property, assault, assault 
with a deadly weapon, and breaking and entering. Their admission to the 
BCA coincided with the appearance of an apparent schism in the group. 

While Ben worked in the association as an extracurricular activity, he 
pursued his degree at UNCC. Through the Students for Action, he 
arranged an invitation to Stokely Carmichael, chairman of the Student 
Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. The Atlanta-based SNCC was 
then merging with the neophyte Black Panther Party of Oakland, 
California. Like thousands of Black students on campuses throughout 
the country, Ben was taken with Stokely Carmichael and his rhetoric of 
revolutionary nationalism. SNCC-BPP was a leading influence in de- 
veloping Black student unions at many universities, and with Car- 
michael's appearance at UNCC, the Black caucus of Students for Action 
decided to become the Black Student Union, with Ben as its president. 
There being no Black faculty members at the university, the BSU asked 
Dr. Jim Grant to become its "faculty advisor." 

There were now some 50 Black students at UNCC and they were 
determined to have a Black studies program as part of the academic 
curriculum. The university refused to acknowledge the demand and the 
BSU turned to demonstrations, marching on the administration building 
to register its protests. As the demonstrators approached the building, 
one of the Black service workers inside came out to tell the BSU that the 
building was evacuated, that police with billies were waiting for them to 
come inside. Accompanying the BSU were students from Johnson C. 
Smith and Livingston College, who looked to Ben and his comrades for 
leadership. Avoiding the police trap, they gathered outside the building 
to listen to T.J. Reddy read his poetry. Eventually the administration 
agreed to discuss the BSU demands, but the first negotiating session was 
held up for an hour and a half when the administration refused to allow 
Jim Grant in on the discussion. But that refusal, it was pointed out, 
would result in the breakdown of the negotiations and consequently 
renewed demonstrations with their implied potential for violent police 
retaliation. The university retreated, agreed to establish a Black studies 
program and a compensatory recruitment program for more Black 

28 



One 



students. Ben was beginning to learn something of the power of the state 
apparatus, and of the counterveiiing power of mass action. 

His activities at UNCC were having a felt effect in surrounding 
counties. At Belmont Abbey College outside of Gastonia, Black students 
began to organize an Afro-American Culture Association. Belmont is a 
typical Piedmont mill town, barren of culture or recreation, where 
Klansmen got their entertainment and exercise by chasing Black children 
coming from school. Belmont Abbey had all of 10 Black men students, to 
complement the 50 Black women students at Sacred Heart College 
across the street. Together they seized the chemistry building and 
demanded an end to racism in the schools and the establishment of Black 
history courses. They held the building for a day with the support of some 
sympathetic white students from the North. When the local Klan sent to 
Gastonia for reinforcements and for heavy artillery to make a military 
assault on the building, the students called Charlotte for help from the 
Black Panther Organization. Ben and Jim organized community support 
for the Belmont-Abbey students. 

Ben continued to feel a special affinity for the Black community at large 
and worked to eliminate the artificial separation of town and gown for 
Blacks. He and Jim built reputations for themselves as community 
organizers, sort of an Avon calling for Black radicalism. 

The Panther organization in Charlotte had been formed partly in 
response to Carmichaers visit, and partly due to the disintegration of the 
Black Cultural Association. The BCA's demise came after the city police 
stepped up their harassment of the group. The Black House remained 
under constant surveillance, thus intimidating the neighbors, and a 
narcotics trade began to develop inside the BCA. That the dope turned 
up about the same time as Al Hood and David Washington, who were 
known as dealers for the local syndicate, may well have been more than 
coincidental. In any case this led to further busts, then pacification and 
ultimately dissolution of the BCA. The more politically minded BCA 
members, Ben among them but not Jim Grant, moved to form the 
Panther organization. They insisted on calling themselves the Black 
Panther Organization, so as to distinguish it as independent of the Black 
Panther Party of Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael. The Charlotte 
group subscribed to the "10-point program" of the BPP and distributed 
the weekly Panther newspaper published in Oakland, California, but 
remained organizationally independent. But as the "revolutionary na- 
tionalists" of the BCA became Panthers, the "cultural nationalists" 
under Al Hood set up a rival organization called US, taking its name 
from the California-based organization led by Ron Karenga, with 

29 



Nothing Could Be Finer 



headquarters in Los Angeles. (According to the testimony of police agent 
Louis Tackwood — The Glass House Tapes, Avon, New York, 1973 — 
and secret FBI memos — New York Post, January 5, 1976 — the FBI and 
the Criminal Conspiracy Section of the Los Angeles Police Department 
helped set up US, whose gunmen killed four Panthers in Los Angeles and 
San Diego alone.) 

Complementing the Black Panther Organization in Charlotte was the 
Black Political Organization, an electoral expression of the aspirations 
of Black townspeople. The Reverend George Leak was running for 
mayor, the first time a Black person had run for public office in Charlotte 
in this century. 16 Although the city's population is almost one-third 
Black, the Board of Elections reported that whites outnumbered Blacks 
five to one at the polls. The BPO, announcing a platform calling for strict 
enforcement of the housing code and resident control of public housing, 
projected a slate of candidates, Leak for mayor and seven city council 
aspirants. Ben was selected to be one of the latter, as were three Black 
women. Racism hung over Charlotte like a net. Changing white attitudes 
seemed as easy as changing the ocean. Rev. Leak came under serious 
attack. Threats were telephoned to his home and to those of his running 
mates. Things, they were told, would get worse before they got worse. 
The Black community reacted. Their candidates needed protection. The 
"more respectable folks" rented a U-Haul van and summoned the 
Panthers to station themselves in the van outside Rev. Leak's home. Not 
much later, the Black Panther Organization was patrolling all the streets 
of the community. 



Ihe old placebo that anyone can grow up to be president has unfor- 
tunately been proven several times. But Tarheel politics make a fetish of 
the proposition. 

Joseph Branch, for example, has been a justice on the North Carolina 
Supreme Court since 1966. Before that he was campaign manager and 
then general counsel to Governor Dan K. Moore. Governor Moore also 
sits now on the Supreme Court. Two elections before, Judge Branch 
worked as general counsel to Governor Luther Hodges. In the 1960 
gubernatorial election, Judge Branch campaigned for attorney I. Beverly 
Lake against Terry Sanford. Lake's campaign was managed by Robert 
Morgan, now junior U.S. senator. Morgan, like Branch, was a student of 
Lake at Wake Forest College. Lake was defeated by Sanford but ran 
again in 1964 against Moore. When Moore won and became governor, he 




30 



One 



appointed Lake to the Supreme Court, together with Branch. Moore's 
successor, Governor Bob Scott, whose father was also governor and 
senator, appointed Moore to the Supreme Court. 

This Good-Old-Boy Network — Branch, Moore, Hodges, Lake, San- 
ford, Morgan and Scott — is entirely Democrat. Except for Lake and 
Morgan, all were considered "middle-of-the-road," according to Branch. 
Judge Lake, Branch says, "holds that the middle of the road is the best 
place to get run over." 17 Actually, all governors and major North 
Carolina politicians in this century — until 1972 — have been Democrats. 
The pattern was set in 1898 when the Democrats and their paramilitary 
wing, the Redshirts, overthrew the Republicans by force and violence 
because of Reconstruction. Not until 1972, during the Nixon sweep of 
George McGovern, was another Republican elected governor. Dan K. 
Moore credits Luther Hodges for the rise of modern Republicanism. 
Although a staunch Democrat, Governor Hodges led the drive to bring 
Northern industry to the state and with it came Republican corporation 
executives. 

Hodges, the son of a tenant farmer, went to work for Marshall Field, 
rose to become a vice-president, ran the company's textile division, and 
after the second world war headed up the Marshall Plan in Germany. In 
1952 he was elected lieutenant governor and became governor upon the 
death in office of William Umstead. After being elected again in 1956 and 
serving a full term — North Carolina law limited the governorship to one 
four-year term — Hodges was named secretary of commerce in President 
Kennedy's cabinet. Next to the modern industrialization of North 
Carolina, the Hodges years in the statehouse were most notable for the 
massive resistence to U.S. Supreme Court school desegregation rulings. 
Hodges was considered a moderate — comedian Dick Gregory once 
described the Southern moderate as one who lynches from a low tree — ] 
by virtue of comparison with the blatant racist rhetoric of his assistant 
attorney general, I. Beverly Lake, who carried the state's legal burdens in 
the courts. Lake was accompanied in this task on the legislative level by 
his protege, then state Senator Robert Morgan. 

With Hodges' term coming to an end in 1960, Lake started campaign- 
ing early for the governor's mansion. Under the management of Morgan, 
the "conservative" appeal left nothing to the imagination. Lake's cam- 
paign literature quoted from his argument before the U.S. Supreme 
Court: "Race consciousness is not race hatred. It is not intolerance. It is a 
deeply ingrained awareness of a birthright held in trust for posterity." He 
declared "unthinkable" North Carolina's "surrender to the NAACP." 
Over statewide television he argued that the NAACP's "ultimate objec- 

31 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

tive is the blending of the white and Negro races into a mixed-blooded 
whole." Before a Lion's Club meeting in Ashboro he warned, "The 
mixture of our two great races in the classroom and then in the home is 
not inevitable and is not to be tolerated." 18 

Lake was defeated by Terry Sanford in that race, but he tried again in 
1964. The Democratic primary, which had always determined the general 
election winner, was crowded with five candidates. Lake came in third 
this time, but a runoff was necessary to decide between the frontrunners, 
the "moderate" Richardson Preyer and the "conservative" Dan K. 
Moore. Moore, a Champion Paper Company executive with a person- 
ality as bland as dentist-chair music, was the beneficiary of Lake's 
largesse. Full-page ads in the state's major dailies carried the text of a 
Lake television speech endorsing Moore: "Whom do you see standing 
there ready to advise and direct [Preyer's] administration? . . . Kelly 
Alexander, head of the NAACP in North Carolina, all of those block 
voters who are captive pawns in the hands of Bobby Kennedy and Martin 
Luther King; last and least there is that small but noisy clique of 
professional liberals at Chapel Hill who are a red and festering sore upon 
the body of a great university." 19 (Emphasis added. The Communist 
speakers' ban was then in effect and was a major campaign issue of the 
Lake group.) Candidate Moore seconded supporter Lake's remarks: 
"My opponent . . . owes his lead and owes a large part of his entire vote to 
the block Negro vote in North Carolina." (Lake was appointed to the 
state supreme court by Moore in 1965 and remains on the bench today. 
His views have not mellowed with time. In 1969 he denied his papers to 
East Carolina University because, "I do not care to have anything 
belonging to me in the custody of an institution that finds it necessary to 
apologize for displaying the Confederate flag and singing Dixie." The 
News and Observer, April 10, 1969.) 

The Black population in the state was only 20 percent of the whole, and 
the federal voting rights bill was not yet in effect at that time. No matter, 
race is politics in North Carolina. It always has been. For decades, the 
white-supremacy campaigns waged by the Democratic Party for the 
legislature and the governorship were, of course, successful. Back in 
1898, accompanied by violent terrorism of the Redshirts and the Klan, 
the campaign had been fought on a pledge to remove Black people from 
politics. In 1900, Charles Brantley Aycock was elected governor. The 
legislature disenfranchised Blacks on the grounds of illiteracy and 
instituted the grandfather clause to accommodate illiterate whites. 20 
Aycock, a "moderate" of his time, argued for "colored education." 
Writing in 1904, he said, "When the [suffrage] fight had been won, I felt 

32 



One 



that the time had come when the negro [sic] should be taught to realize 
that while he would not be permitted to govern the state, his rights should 
be held more sacred by reason of his weakness." 21 

The march of time did nothing to moderate race-baiting as an inherent 
part of those quadrennial rites of passage known as elections. It drove 
from politics Frank Porter Graham, North Carolina's most noted 
progressive spokeman of this century. Graham was a history professor at 
Chapel Hill in 1930 when he was named president of the university. Says 
former Governor Terry Sanford, now president of Duke University in 
Durham: "Frank Graham's spirit moved this state. He and UNC explain 
why North Carolina has a reputation for progressivism." 

An early supporter of the Spanish Republic and the Committee for the 
Protection of the Foreign Born, Graham also became a leader of the 
Southern Conference on Human Rights which led the struggle for the 
rights of sharecroppers, tenant farmers and migrant laborers. In the days 
when the words "labor organizer" and "bolshevik" were synonymous, he 
argued for abolition of the twelve-hour day and for workmen's compen- 
sation. 

For all that, Frank Graham was hardly a radical. But in the valley of 
blind reaction, the one-eyed liberal is considered dangerous. Dr. Graham 
maintained the university as an all-white institution because it was "the 
law" and, as he would say upon retirement, "We obeyed the law." 22 In 
1949, he was appointed to fill a U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death 
of J. Melville Broughton. The next year, Graham had to face the voters 
of North Carolina for the first time in his life. He survived the primary 
and came within a percent of the needed majority. But one month later he 
lost the run-off by 18,000 votes. Jonathan Daniels, editor of The News 
and Observer and a personal friend of Graham, described the opposition 
campaign strategy: "In the first primary we hit him with the Communists 
and the people wouldn't take it. Now, we're gonna hit him with the 

n r." 23 Red-baiting and race-baiting proved to be the campaign's 

equivalent of assault and battery. 

Two days before the elections, when newspaper subscribers unrolled 
their papers they found handbills headlined, "WHITE PEOPLE WAKE 
UP!" The flyers asked if voters wanted "Negroes using your toilet 
facilities?" "Negroes working beside you?" the seemingly compulsory 
"Negroes going to white schools and white children going to Negro 
schools?" etc. The leaflets asked for votes for Willis Smith, claiming "He 
will uphold the traditions of the South." (Smith was a former president of 
the American Bar Association.) Photographs were passed out at filling 
stations where white farmers gathered to talk; they pictured Black GIs 

33 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

dancing with white women in British nightclubs. Hate calls and threats 
were phoned into election officials favorable to Graham. The shift of 
votes away from Graham between the primary and the run-off was most 
crucial among the "well-educated, well-to-do middle class," according to 
one study. Especially damaging "was the insistent drumming of the fear 
that white and Negro children might have to attend the same schools." 
Samuel Lubell, who conducted the study, wrote, "Frank Graham was 
defeated not by a foul-mouthed Theodore Bilbo [a U.S. senator from 
Mississippi, remembered only for his cretinous bigotry. Author] but by a 
nationally honored lawyer, who was chairman of the board of trustees of 
Duke University. It was not only the bigots who turned against 'Dr. 
Frank' but many 'progressive' North Carolinians." 24 

The progressive legacy of Frank Graham has since been used as public 
relations foam on the mug of beery conservatism that is North Carolina 
politics. For a time, Governor Terry Sanford perpetuated the state's New 
South image outside of North Carolina. Ironically, it was just this 
concern with matters outside the state that brought an end to Sanford's 
political career. Now president of Duke University, he was roundly 
defeated by Tarheel Democrats in the 1972 presidential primary. Emerg- 
ing as the people's choice was George Wallace. Seventy-five percent of 
the state's voters are Democrat, yet Wallace, running as an independent, 
placed second in the 1968 presidential election, outdistanced by Richard 
Nixon but beating out the Democrat Hubert Humphrey. 

The mood of the electorate in that 1968 vote was consistent as it 
returned Sam J. Ervin, Jr. to the U.S. Senate for a third term. Ervin, the 
state's most popular politician at the time, 25 epitomized the New South- 
ern identity of North Carolina in the minds of his fellow countrymen 
during the Nixon years in the White House. Adjudicator of Watergate 
evils, a walking Bartlett's of familiar quotations from Bard and Bible, 
Ervin, whose appearance has been likened to a windbag Senator 
Claghorn, was made into something of a folk hero in the manner that is 
accomplished in these contemporary times: A record of Senator Sam 
proverbs was produced, campus speaking tours arranged, Sam Ervin T- 
shirts manufactured. 

A true representative of the established order in his home state, Ervin's 
libertarian image belied his nineteenth century politics. "Like most 
southerners," wrote his unofficial biographer, "Ervin believed in the 
separate-but-equal doctrine set forth in the year of his birth. ... He was 
convinced that segregation was the natural result of people freely 
associating with members of their own race." 26 Ervin first entered the 
Senate in 1954 just weeks after the Supreme Court ruling to desegregate 

34 



One 

the schools. While his fellow Democrats Luther Hodges and I. Beverly 
Lake did battle on the home front, Ervin joined the fray in Washington. 
Together with Richard Russell of Georgia and John Stennis of Mississip- 
pi, Ervin wrote the "Southern Manifesto" in 1956, a blood oath encour- 
aging states to resist the law of the land. Syndicated columnist Tom 
Wicker, himself a North Carolinian, chides the man who came to be 
known as the Senate's foremost defender of the Constitution: "He did 
not find anything in the Constitution about a Black man's right to eat a 
toasted-cheese sandwich or a Moon Pie at a dime-store lunch counter, 
and he did not even see any language that expanded to fit the case." 27 

Ervin employed all his country-lawyer folksiness in the Senate in 
behalf of his favorite causes: against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 
Voting Rights Act, the 1966 Mine Safety Act. He led the filibuster against 
the repeal of the law preventing closed union shops and became a favorite 
speaker of the National Association of Manufacturers. Ervin received a 
perfect rating of 100 from the American Security Council, a collection of 
retired Pentagon brass and munitions industry executives, for his votes 
favoring the space shuttle, military aid to the Greek junta, the Trident 
submarine, B-l supersonic bomber and C-5A transport plane, and 
continuation of the draft. Ervin in turn called the Joint Chiefs of Staff a 
group of "fine Christian gentlemen" and declared his unwavering sup- 
port of the Vietnam War by explaining, "If we pull out, Old Glory will be 
turned into a white flag." 

Welfare for the Pentagon was scarcely matched by a concern for the 
powerless. Ervin opposed the Equal Rights Amendment for women, day 
care for children, highway funds for mass transit, a Fair Employment 
Practices Commission for North Carolina, federal relief for nutrition ~f 
and health care in his own home state, legal services for the poor, ^ e 
unemployment compensation for migrant workers, medicare for the 
sick, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act to protect 55 million 
production workers on the job. In 1971, Ervin co-sponsored legislation to 
prohibit food stamps to families engaged in labor strikes. 28 

Senator Sam also led the opposition in the Senate in defeating 
ratification of the United Nations Convention against genocide. An 
outgrowth of the Nazi slaughter of European Jews, the convention has 
been subscribed to by 78 countries over the last quarter-century. North 
Carolina's senior senator helped assure that at least while he was in 
office, the United States would not officially stand against genocide. 29 

In his classic study, Southern Politics, V.O. Key found that those 
North Carolina counties that had had the fewest slaves came out of the 
Civil War with the strongest Republican leanings. Most of these were 

35 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

located in the Blue Ridge, "the great spine of Republicanism which runs 
down the back of the South." When Key made his findings in 1944, 81 
percent of the state's Republican votes came from those western count- 
ies. Three decades later, the pattern hasn't changed much. The first 
Republican governor in this century, James Holshouser, who served 
from 1972 to 1976, comes from the mountain town of Boone. 

Not that the party label makes a difference. James E. Broyhill, for 
more than 20 years Republican national committeeman and a member of 
the national Republican finance committee, was, not incidentally, owner 
of Broyhill Furniture, one of the nation's giant wood furniture manufac- 
turers. North Carolina is the leading furniture producer in the United 
States and Broyhill's Lenoir is one of the state's main manufacturing 
centers. A former director of the National Association of Manufacturers, 
and a personal friend of such Republican leaders as Herbert Hoover, 
Robert Taft, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, Broyhill was, to 
use Nixonian lingo, the Big Enchilada of North Carolina Republican- 
ism. 30 One of Broyhill's son's, James T., has been a Republican congress- 
man since 1962. A son-in-law and vice-president of Broyhill Furniture, 
William Stevens, was the GOP opponent in the 1974 U.S. Senate race 
against Robert Morgan. 

Republican U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, who hails from the eastern part 
of the state, was a Democrat until 1970. For years the editorial voice of 
Raleigh's ABC television affiliate, Helms describes himself as "the 
sorriest politician that ever came down the pike." But in 1972 he benefited 
from the Nixon sweep and claims to have received more than 90 percent 
of the George Wallace vote as well. Indeed, gas stations and diners 
throughout rural North Carolina still feature Wallace wall posters and 
"Give 'em Helms, Jesse" bumper stickers alongside one another. 

The only way Helms could have won, in fact, was to obtain even more 
Democratic votes than Republican, which led him to conclude that his 
and the country's future lay in a realignment of parties and the creation of 
a third, ultra-right party. In February 1974 he was chosen chairman of 
the Committee on Conservative Alternatives to study the possibilities of 
building such a party. 31 A collection of reactionary politicians who feel 
that the Democrats and Republicans are moving too fast and too far to 
the left, the committee believes that what America needs more than a 
good five-cents cigar is an outspokenly right-wing political center. In 
1976, when Ronald Reagan declared himself for the presidency, Helms 
gave up his third-party notions for the time being to chair Reagan's 
primary campaign in North Carolina. That primary gave Reagan his first 
victory over Gerald Ford and paved the way for him to the Republican 

36 



One 

convention. (Such were the politics of the 1976 primaries that Henry 
Jackson, surely the Democratic candidate furthest to the right, save 
George Wallace, was forced to pull out of North Carolina two weeks 
before the election when his campaign manager and half the campaign 
staff dropped Jackson for stating opposition to Section 14b of the Taft- 
Hartley Act, which allows states to enact "right-to-work" laws. The 
Greensboro Daily News pointed out to Jackson that in North Carolina^ 
Section 14b "is cherished rather like one of the crown jewels.") 

Helms has been likened to South Carolina's Strom Thurmond, who 
led a Dixiecrat third-party effort in 1948 and eventually left the Demo- 
crats for the Republicans. Like Thurmond, Helms is full of country 
bromides: "Prayer is, after all, a Constitutional right and a moral duty"; 
"We must reverse the trend that says that women must be liberated from 
the dignity of motherhood and from the femininity of her natural 
development," etc. 32 

During the Watergate scandal, and the movement to impeach Richard 
Nixon, Helms rose to the defense of his president. Claiming that the 
disgraced Nixon was falling victim to "the major media," Helms said 
the press "serves the same function in today's naked power struggle as the 
manipulated mobs of the past brought pressure for the removal of 
kings." 33 Many are the sows' ears made silken by the prose of Jesse 
Helms. H is concern for and praise of kings made for a natural bond with 
the Czar-gazing exiled writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whom Helms 
befriended and sponsored in the Senate for honorary U.S. citizenship. In 
1974, Helms' concern for freedom throughout the world brought him to 
Taiwan to address the annual Freedom Day Rally at the invitation of the 
late Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. A like speaking engagement was 
fulfilled in Santiago de Chile at the bidding of General Pinochet. 

That the Democrat Senator Robert Morgan — who rose to power as a 
segregationist state legislator and as the attorney general who led the 
persecution of the Wilmington 10— and the Republican Senator Helms 
are simultaneously visited upon the people of North Carolina capsulizes 
the myth of this state as in the van of a progressive New South. The 
General Assembly building in Raleigh may be the only thing modern 
about Tarheel politics. In the legislature there are no roll calls in * 
committees, no fiscal control of government, no ethics legislation, no I 
conflict-of-interest legislation. Ralph Nader's Citizen's Conference on 
State Legislatures rated North Carolina's 47th in the country on the basis $ 
of functioning, accountability, representation and handling of informa- £ 
tion. 



37 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

In 1971 the average state legislature spent two dollars per constituent; 
North Carolina's spent twelve cents, perhaps the most obvious indication 
of its domination by what have come to be known euphemistically as 
special interests. Raleigh's News and Observer editor Claude Sitton 
spells out those interests: "The banks, power companies, real estate, 
trucking, developers, textile interests; but mainly the banks." 34 The 
General Assembly meets only two months of the year and North 
Carolina is the only state in the union in which the governor has no power 
of veto. Clearly the politicians are only in the basement of the power 
structure. 

That race is still the political issue, no matter how masqueraded, 
speaks volumes about the nature of that structure. In 1974, Alabama had 
15 Black representatives in its state legislature, 13 in the House and 2 in 
the Senate. That year, South Carolina voters elected 9 Black state 
legislators; in Georgia, the number of seats held by Black representatives 
went from 16 to 22. North Carolina had 3 out of a total 170 members of 
the General Assembly. 

Until the early 1960s, North Carolina led the South in voter registra- 
tion. By 1970, after a decade of the biggest civil-rights upsurge in history, 
the state was at the bottom of the ladder in Black registration. The state's 
ruling class preferred to manipulate voting procedures rather than deny 
Black registration outright, as occurred in much of the Deep South 
during those years. Between 1955 and 1969, most counties and cities 
switched from the ward system of electoral representation to the council- 
manager form, whereby representatives are elected at-large. There being 
no large Black majority in any single county, white supremacy was 
assured. Meanwhile, the tidy image of moderation was preserved. Again, 
this splendid method of excluding Black representation was instituted in 
the name of reform. Blacks became convinced that the only way to win 
any election was by "bullet" voting; that is, casting the ballot for a single 
candidate in a large field where more than one office is open, thereby 
increasing the worth of the "single-shot" vote. The powers that be 
responded by outlawing "single-shot" votes. Other laws were passed to 
force run-offs between the two highest vote-getters in elections where no 
one received a majority. Hence, a Black candidate could receive more 
votes than any of his eight white opponents, but if he did not receive 50 
percent plus, he faced a run-off against a single white candidate, and 
near-certain defeat. The at-large elections and anti-"bullet" laws help 
■t explain why in 1972 only 3 of 468 county commissioners were Black; and 
only 12 of more than 600 school-board members were Black. 35 

38 



One 



Even as he directed the Black Student Union, helped the Panthers and 
ran for Charlotte City Council, Ben, together with Jim Grant, became 
the organizers for Western North Carolina for the late Dr. King's 
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Jim had already set 
up shop in Shelby at the foot of the mountains in the West. A young 
Shelby Black man, Robert Roseboro, had been sent to death row over 
the killing of a white woman. Jim organized a march in that conservative 
mill town demanding clemency for Roseboro and jobs for Blacks in 
downtown Shelby. More than 500 people participated in the march and 
courthouse rally, the first in the history of the town. 

A year earlier, Marie Hill, a 15-year-old Black junior high school 
student and tobacco hand, was arrested and charged with the murder of a 
white grocer in Rocky Mount, in eastern Carolina. She was picked up in 
South Carolina while on a family visit. Coerced into signing a confession 
without benefit of legal counsel, she would later repudiate the confession. 
After a hasty extradition, and without being informed of her right to 
remain silent, she waived any preliminary hearing. Thus it took less than 
a week for the authorities to lay the basis for her certain prosecution and 
conviction, before they allowed her to speak with her parents or confer 
with a lawyer. A few weeks later, Marie Hill was tried for murder, the 
state's case being only her forced confession, convicted and sentenced to 
die in the gas chamber. 

Now, after the Shelby demonstrations for Robert Roseboro, Jim and 
Ben, together with SCLC statewide coordinator Golden Frinks, de- 
veloped plans for a "Mountaintop to the Valley" march to save Marie 
Hill. Starting in Thomas Wolfe's Asheville in the heart of the Great 
Smokies, they set off for the state capitol in Raleigh, appealing for help 
along the way. The march took 25 days and perhaps 250 people went the 
entire distance. But in each village they would pick up 10 here, 20 there, 
until they arrived at the next town. Their appeal was to those whom Paul 
Robeson used to sing of as "the etceteras and the and-so-forths that do 
the work." Thousands participated in the hundred or so towns along the 
300-mile route. The marchers arrived in Charlotte at the peak of the city 
election campaign. City Council candidate Chavis told the city that they 
would sit in the main intersection unless food was provided for the 
marchers. The city fathers asked Johnson C. Smith University to feed the 
good people; in their haste to accommodate the demonstrators and get 
them on their way again, rubber mattresses were provided for their 
comfort. (The only woman in the country on death row at the time, 

39 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Marie Hill remained in isolation at Womens' Prison in Raleigh for nearly 
three years, until May 1972. Her sentence was reduced to life imprison- 
ment after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against arbitrary methods of 
applying the death penalty. Since being imprisoned, she contracted 
gangrene in her foot and a toe was amputated. She also developed ulcers. 
Still imprisoned, Marie Hill became 25 in 1977.) 

The only trade union in Charlotte to support the Black Political 
Organization candidates was the American Federation of State, County 
and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local. Jim Pierce, then regional 
director for AFSCME, put Ben and Jim Grant on staff as the union 
launched a drive to organize the city's sanitation workers. Ben had to 
share his time with UNCC where he was now in his senior year. Still 
SCLC coordinator for western North Carolina, Ben was attracted to the 
idea of working for AFSCME, in part because his ideological mentor, 
Dr. King, had given his life in the effort to organize sanitation workers in 
Memphis. In the few months he and Jim worked for the union, 
AFSCM E organized a strike. Their responsibility was to put together the 
picket lines and demonstrations, to march the workers downtown to city 
hall and win a contract that included dues checkoff. The garbage strike 
proved to be the first successful one in the history of Charlotte. That elite 
did not take kindly to the kind of organizing being carried out by Messrs. 
Chavis and Grant. 

Ben's first arrest came that year on trespass charges. He and a friend, 
Jerome Johnson, were invited by students at Charlotte's Second Ward 
High School to come speak on racism in the school system. In 1969, the 
federal district court ruled that Mecklenburg County's schools were 
segregated and ordered busing to desegregate the schools. This was the 
first busing order by the courts in the country and the racist outroar that 
followed throughout North Carolina foreshadowed later events from 
Pontiac, Michigan, to Boston, Massachussetts. The Charlotte school 
board decided to close down Second Ward, the most prestigious and 
only inner-city Black high school in town. The students wanted to save 
the school, so they called in Ben and Jerome Johnson. As Ben started to 
address the assembled students, city police rushed the stage and carried 
him off. They threw him into the back of a black-and-white and began to 
drive off, but the students surrounded the car and refused to let it move. 
Out of spite, Jerome was arrested by the frustrated police. After some 
negotiations, the police finally got Ben and Jerome to the jail and into a 
cell. Curiously, an hour later, Al Hood was put into the same cell. He said 
that he too was busted for trying to speak at Second Ward, after Ben and 
Jerome were taken away. 

40 



One 



Shortly after Ben's release — the charges were eventually thrown out of 
court — Treasury Department special agent Stanley Noel of the Alcohol, 
Tobacco and Firearms Bureau burst into Ben's apartment, armed with a 
shotgun, on the pretext of "looking for suspects." In the next few 
months, Ben would be arrested twice more for "trespass," and his home 
and SCLC office busted into a few more times. Presumably, his Treasury 
agent nemesis was hard at work. Neither a graduate of charm school nor 
of law school — the U.S. Constitution protects the right of persons to be 
"secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable 
search and seizure" — Stanley Noel had not even been paying attention to 
local police and FBI directives urging the community not to open its 
doors to strangers. Perhaps the G-man was aware that his shotgun would 
have a dampening effect on the free flow of ideas. 

It was time for Ben to leave Charlotte. 

Hacking his way through a bush of decision-making about his future, 
Ben finally arrived back home in Oxford. His father had been dead for 
almost five years, during most of which time he had been away from his 
mother and the family home. He was uncertain of what might come. 
Oxford was just a small tobacco town, exuding all the Babbitry of a 
Shriners' convention. There was a sense for Ben, after the pace of 
200,000-strong metropolitan Charlotte, of stepping back into a time 
capsule, and of being rapidly reduced, Alice-like, tumbling down into 
this teeny wonderland. 

First things coming, as they do, first, Ben had to find a job. His family, 
traditionally teachers, encouraged him to apply to Mary Potter High 
School as a teacher. The school board had already announced that this, 
1970, was to be Mary Potter's last year as the town's all-Black high 
school, that next year it would become a desegregated junior high. 

No more full-time teaching slots were available but Ben was able to 
hook on as a substitute. Every time a teacher would call in sick, Ben 
would fill in. Whatever was needed, Ben would teach — English, journal- 
ism, physics, chemistry, even home economics one time. In the course of 
these itinerant wanderings from class to class, he was able to meet most of 
the student body. Some of the students already knew of Ben through the 
newspapers, or from his sister Francine, who graduated the previous year 
as class valedictorian. 

If there is no such thing as a natural-born organizer, there are at least 
those who catch a terminal dose of the bug and Ben was one such. 
Organizing coursed through his veins, set his heart to pumping, shot 
through his body as sure as adrenalin. The kids at Mary Potter, in fact the 
entire Black population in Oxford, had no recreational facilities. The 

41 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

county had a swimming pool, but only for whites. Not a single public 
basketball court was available for Blacks. So the students got together 
with Ben Chavis, at age 21 their adult advisor, to form the Granville 
County Steering Committee for Black Progress. The Steering Commit- 
tee met with the city council to demand playgrounds, courts, swimming 
pools, but the council responded with a hand as heavy as a bucket of wet 
sand. Black Oxfordians could look forward to another very long, hot 
summer. 

They got an early start that year. On May 11, Jimmy Chavis, Ben's 
cousin, and Henry Marrow, a former classmate who had just come back 
from Vietnam, and some other young men were standing in front of 
Robert Teel's business enterprise. Teel was the local Klan leader, a fact 
well known throughout Granville County. A week earlier, Teel had 
beaten up a Black teacher in Oxford who had accused Teel of cheating 
him out of some gasoline. The teacher had sworn out a warrant against 
Teel but the police refused to serve it. Now, this Tuesday afternoon, one 
of the youngsters whistled at Teel's wife. The Klan leader ran into his 
store, came back out with his son and stepson, armed with shotguns, and 
started firing into the crowd of 20 Black youths. The young men ran, but 
pellets hit Henry Marrow and Jimmy Chavis. Jimmy was able to crawl 
into a nearby patch of grass and hide but Henry wasn't so lucky. He fell to 
the ground, bleeding from the back and the knee. One of the Teel men got 
an axe handle and beat in Henry Marrow's head. Then Robert Teel 
ordered his son Larry to shoot Henry dead. Larry placed his Owen 
under-410-gauge shotgun with a .22 on top against the dying man's 
temple and blew his head off. 

The kids who had witnessed the shooting rushed over to the Soul 
Kitchen, Ben's family-owned Ridley Drive-in, with its name and decor 
changed to attract young people. Ben was working the Soul Kitchen 
when the youngsters came in to tell their story. He listened a moment, 
and decided to go directly to the Teels to investigate. Finding the grocery 
open as usual for business, he went to the police station, where the chief 
said that he hadn't arrested the Teels because he still lacked full informa- 
tion. 

The next day was one of Ben's teaching days, but rather than hold 
class, he met with the entire student body in front of the school. Nobody 
went to class that day. All 450 students joined Ben to march on the 
courthouse to demand justice. The principal threatened expulsions but 
still the students marched. At the courthouse, they learned that the State 
Bureau of Investigation had arrested the Teels and brought them to 
Raleigh for safekeeping. Ben announced a meeting that night in the field 

42 



One 

in back of the Soul Kitchen. He appealed to the students to bring their 
parents when they came home from the tobacco fields and the mills. 
Nearly a thousand folks gathered that night to declare the next day Black 
Thursday. 

Nobody would go to school; they were going to march again. They met 
at the First Baptist Church in early morning. This time more than just the 
kids showed up. From 8 to 80, they came to march. Ben appealed to the 
crowd to exhibit solemnity. This was not to be a jovial march. He recalls, 
"We weren't going to have a whole lot of laughing, because white people 
in town were used to seeing Black folks as hee-hawing happy-go-lucky 
peons. None of that this time. We wouldn't give the white structure a 
chance to deceive itself this time." All you could hear that morning from 
the church to the courthouse and back was the pat-pat-pat of marching 
feet. 

The Steering Committee for Black Progress became a community 
organization, holding regular meetings at the First Baptist Church. 
Through his activities in Oxford, Ben came to the attention of Reverend 
Leon White of nearby Henderson. White was director of the United 
Church of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice for North Carolina 
and Virginia. He was looking to hire an organizer who could tap the 
growing Black resistance in the state. Ben was obviously the man for the 
job. 

When the state held a bond hearing for the Teels, to which the 
president of one of Oxford's banks and other Chamber of Commerce 
elders testified as to the good character of the defendants, Ben and the 
Steering Committee set into motion two actions. They called a consum- 
er's boycott of Oxford's downtown stores. And they decided to hold a 
funeral march for Henry Marrow, from Oxford to Raleigh, 34 miles 
away. Setting out with a wagon, a mule and a casket, the Oxford folks 
began the three-day trek with the intention of gaining an audience with 
Governor Bob Scott to appeal for justice. Henry Marrow's pregnant 
widow joined them for the duration. Along the way they held local rallies 
in churches in Creedmor and Raleigh. Starting out from Oxford with 200 
marchers, they arrived at the governor's office with a thousand. They had 
made an appointment with the governor but he refused to see them. The 
angry marchers returned to Oxford. Their anger was matched by that of 
the people who remained in Oxford. When word came of the governor's 
lack of good faith, Oxford went up in flames. Warehouses caught fire, 
burning a million dollars worth of tobacco sold to the U.S. government. 
Now Governor Scott became more responsive. He ordered Oxford under 
curfew and sent in the state riot squad, under the aegis of the highway 

43 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

patrol. Everybody was to be off the city streets by 6 p.m. for the next 10 

days. 

The Steering Committee began to meet at the Soul Kitchen again, 
because it was outside the Oxford town limits. Committee members 
would stay all night or sneak back home through highway patrol lines. 
As many as 200 came to these nightly meetings. Earlier, Jim Grant and 
Joe Goins, another friend from Charlotte, had come up to Raleigh to join 
the march on the governor's office and had returned to Oxford with the 
disappointed demonstrators. Jim was now on the staff of the Southern 
Conference Education Fund (SCEF), based in Louisville, Kentucky. He 
remained in Oxford on behalf of SCEF and its newspaper, the Southern 
Patriot. 

During one of the Steering Committee's afternoon meetings, a strange 
car drove into the Soul Kitchen parking lot. Al Hood and David 
Washington had also arrived from Charlotte. Came to help, they said. 
But the meeting was in progress, so Ben and Jim told them to come back 
later that night if they wanted to talk. Joe Goins took off with Hood and 
Washington, and they were never seen again in Oxford. The next day, 
Ben and Jim heard that they had been busted. Seems they had driven up 
to a highway patrol roadblock with a car full of dynamite. 

Things cooled down in Oxford for a short while. But the Teel murder 
trial was scheduled for the summer, and the Klan began to hold statewide 
rallies in Oxford to raise money for the defense. Advertisements calling 
upon all white people to "stand up" in Oxford appeared in the local press. 
The trial was presided over by Judge Robert Martin of High Point, one 
of a dozen circuit-riding judges in the state superior court. An all-white 
jury was selected to render the verdict. The Steering Committee hired 
attorney James Ferguson of Charlotte to serve as private prosecutor, 
which was allowed under one of North Carolina's more peculiar ancient 
statutes. The trial had about as much quiet reserve as a Legionaire 
smoker. Robert Teel announced in court that he was going to dynamite 
the Soul Kitchen. During a court recess following this remarkable 
testimony, Teel picked up a chair and tried to attack attorney Ferguson. 
Judge Martin sat with his head down, refusing to acknowledge the 
incident. The jury, for its part, acquitted the Teels. 

The Steering Committee for Black Progress moved into action again. 
Pickets marched every day to build the boycott of downtown merchants. 
Car pools were organized to take shoppers to Henderson, 11 miles away. 
A number of businesses were forced to close down. The Steering 
Committee upped its ante. It was no longer protesting the murder of 
Henry Marrow only, but was demanding Black salespeople in the stores 

44 



One 

and Blacks in local law enforcement agencies. The Chamber of Com- 
merce finally agreed. Blacks were hired in the stores for the first time, the 
one Black policeman was made a lieutenant, several others were hired, 
and Granville County got its first Black sheriffs deputy. On behalf of the 
Commission for Racial Justice, Ben organized a statewide Black Soli- 
darity Day on August 22, 1970, and 4,000 people came to celebrate. 

In September, the federal explosives-possession trial of Al Hood, 
David Washington and Joe Coins was set to be held in Raleigh. One 
morning before the trial, Hood and Washington came to the Soul 
Kitchen and asked Ben to cash a $100 check they received from Jim 
Grant. The money was to help pay for the trial, they explained. On the 
morning the trial was scheduled to open, Ben and Jim went to Raleigh. 
When the bailiff called out the names of the defendants, Joe Goins was 
there but Hood and Washington were not. Federal fugitive warrants 
were issued and the judge called the FBI into the case. 

Three months later, just before Christmas, Ben read in the Charlotte 
Observer that Hood and Washington had turned themselves in to the 
government, after returning from Canada. 

Curiouser and curiouser. 



45 



Two 



In Harrisburg, Pa., it was disclosed that Col. Or an K. 
Henderson, the highest-ranking officer charged in the 
My Lai massacre . . . has gone to work, for the 
Pennsylvania Bicentennial Commission. . . . Colonel 
Henderson, in his $16,900-a-yearjob, would coordinate 
the Congress of World Unity, a meeting of philoso- 
phers from all over the world, to draft a 'declaration of 
human rights.' 

The New York Times, September 18, 1974 



i J uther Hodges became governor back in 1955, just six months 
after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Topeka Board of 
Education that segregation in the schools was unconstitutional. Hodges' 
autobiography, Businessman in the Statehouse, 1 reads like he discovered 
in office that there is no Tooth Fairy and he is disturbed with this 
newfound knowledge. Part of his inheritance from his predecessor was 
the report to the General Assembly by former Governor Umstead's 
Special Advisory Committee on Education. Its objectives were "the 
preservation of public education and the preservation of the peace" in 
the state. The report concluded, according to Hodges, that "the mixing of 
the races forthwith in the public schools could not be accomplished and 
should not be attempted"; attempts to fill the Court's requirements 
"without materially altering or abandoning the existing school system" 
should be made; 2 and another committee should be set up to make 
further recommendations. 

Hodges grabbed the third recommendation first and named former 
North Carolina House speaker Thomas Pearsall to head up a new panel. 
Pearsall came with experience to the task, for he also chaired the 
Umstead advisory committee that made the initial recommendations. 
The first panel had nineteen members, three of whom were Black. 
"Unfortunately," wrote Gov. Hodges, "these particular Negro represen- 
tatives were on the state payroll and were 'suspect' by the state's Negro 
citizenship." They were "high-grade, honest representatives" but were in 
"a tough situation" because they "were under great pressure from their 
fellow-Negroes, many of whom felt strongly that there should be imme- 
diate integration." The governor and Pearsall discussed "carefully and 
prayerfully" the racial composition of the new seven-member committee. 
They finally decided not to "include a Negro because a Negro member of 
such a small group" would be under impossibly difficult "outside pres- 
sure." The new Pearsall panel avoided this problem; all seven members 
were white. 3 

Meanwhile, carrying the legal burden for North Carolina was Assis- 

49 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

tant Attorney General I. Beverly Lake, of whom it can be said as it was of 
Churchill, "There but for the grace of God, goes God." In an amicus 
curiae brief for the state before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1955, Dr. Lake 
argued that "an attempt to compel the intermixture of the races in the 
public schools of North Carolina would result in such violent opposition 
as to endanger the continued existence of the schools." Over statewide 
television, Lake — now a State Supreme Court Justice — proclaimed, 
"The N AACP's objective is not better schools for the Negro children. Its 
ultimate objective is the blending of the white and Negro races into a 
mixed-blooded whole." And, also from Mr. Justice Lake: "The mixture 
of our two great races in the classroom and then in the home is not 
inevitable and is not to be tolerated." Lake, "speaking as a private citizen 
or at least attempting to do so," according to Hodges, "advised commu- 
nities to close their schools rather than submit" to the decision of the high 
court. The North Carolina branch of the N AACP called on the governor 
to dismiss Lake. After all, here was the assistant attorney general, the 
second highest law enforcement official in the state, urging the citizenry 
to break the law of the land en masse. Governor Hodges was incensed at 
the demand. He immediately issued a statement: "I am amazed that this 
private organization, whose policies are determined in its national office 
in New York and are obviously designed to split North Carolina citizens 
into racial camps, and which I am convinced does not actually represent 
any substantial portion of our Negro citizens, should have the effrontery 
to make such a request." He would not accede to the demand: "On the 
contrary, it is my intention to use every means at my command to retain 
for the state the services of this distinguished lawyer." One is reminded of 
the reply of a segregationist lawyer to Robert Penn Warren who asked if 
Autherine Lucy, the first Black woman to enter the University of 
Alabama, wasn't acting under law. "Yes, yes," said the lawyer, "but it was 
just the Federal Court ruled it." 

Hodges went on television to present a plan for "voluntary separation 
of the races." Speaking "directly to the Negro citizens," he appealed: 
"Any stigma you may have felt because of laws requiring segregation in 
our public schools has now been removed by the courts. No right- 
thinking man resents your desire for equality under the law. At the same 
time, no right-thinking man would advise you to destroy the hopes of 
your race and the white race by superficial and 'show-off actions to 
demonstrate this equality. Only the person who feels he is inferior must 

resort to demonstrations to prove that he is not " And finally: "A race 

which can achieve equality has no need to lose itself in another race." 4 

I. Beverly Lake drafted a counter plan to abolish the constitutional 

50 



Two 

requirements for public schools. It would have had the General Assem- 
bly provide grants to parents of children enrolled in private schools. The 
bill was introduced into the state senate by Lake's protege, then state 
senator Robert Morgan of Harnett. In the end the Pearsall-Hodges plan 
won, and the governor was exuberant. (Morgan lived in Lake's house for 
three years while a student of Lake's at Wake Forest Law School. When 
Lake later went onto the Supreme Court, "Morgan is generally regarded 
as having assumed the mantle of leadership to the Lake political faction." 
(News and Observer, April 10, 1969.) Morgan served as state's Attorney 
General in the late 1960s and 1970s, during the period of court-ordered 
school desegregation by busing. In that office he supervised the arrests 
and imprisonment of the militant leadership of the Black student move- 
ment. While Morgan was making his successful run for the U.S. Senate 
in 1974, Lake was still considered the Godfather of the Morgan wing of 
the Democratic Party, according to Mason Thomas of the University of 
North Carolina's Institute of Government. Such were Democratic Party 
politics and consequently North Carolina state politics, that these two 
racist options, were presented to the voting public as "moderate" versus 
"conservative." 

By 1966, a dozen years after desegregation was declared the law of the 
land, only 6 percent of North Carolina's Black children were enrolled in 
school with whites. The relationship between racist school systems and 
quality education, for Blacks and whites, can be seen in a study by the 
North Carolina Fund of that year. One of six state residents over 24 years 
old had not achieved a 5th grade education. Less than half the number of 
those entering first grade completed the twelfth grade, a full one-quarter 
below than the national average. More than half the armed forces 
draftees from the state failed their pre-induction mental tests. Less than 8 
percent of the population was employed as professional or technical 
workers, the lowest rate in the United States. 

Eighteen years after the Brown decision, North Carolina officials still 
felt that the federal courts were raining on their parade. Asked in 1972 to 
cite the state's number one problem, Senator Sam Ervin, Jr., answered, 
"Busing." Just as his Senate career began with his staunch opposition to 
the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling, Ervin finished out his career on the 
same note. When, in Swann v. Charlotte- Mecklenburg Board of Educa- 
tion, the federal district court ordered busing to desegregate the schools 
of North Carolina's biggest city and subsequently the whole state, Ervin 
went before the U.S. Supreme Court as attorney for the Charlotte- 
Mecklenburg Classroom Teachers Association to fight the court's ruling. 

For a quarter of a century the main racist thrust in North Carolina was 

51 



Nothing Could Be Finer 



on the issue of school desegregation. After the Swann decision, violence 
broke out in dozens of cities and hamlets throughout the state. For a 
period the SCu Klux Klan was revived and new paramilitary groupings 
came together, such as the Rights of White People organization in 
eastern North Carolina. Several hundred Black schoolchildren and 
students were jailed and their leaders imprisoned for long sentences. The 
usually outspoken Sam Ervin maintained a curious silence about the 
repression of the Black student movement. But in the Senate he pressed 
for a law to end the "horrible tyranny" of school busing. 5 

Despite his elucidating such a dubious, though popular, proposition, 
Ervin lost favor with his electoral base. The Watergate investigation 
proved to be his last hurrah. Richard Nixon had, after all, won the 1972 
presidential election in North Carolina as nearly everywhere else; and 
Nixon too was a staunch opponent of busing. Ironically school desegre- 
gation, long the Dixiecrats' favorite issue, played a great role in breaking 
up the solid South, including solid North Carolina. The Nixon "South- 
ern Strategy" was based, in the first place, on a not very subtle appeal to 
racist fears. The strategy, despite its public moniker, was national in 
scope— designed to appeal to the voters of the Detroit suburbs and to 
those of Greenville, Mississippi. North Carolina was a testing ground for 
its appeal. Most political observers in the state agree that the Nixon 
appeal, combined with the "pro-busing" sentiments of the national 
Democratic Party, brought about the reemergence of the Republican 
Party in North Carolina. For the first time in this century, a Republican, 
James Holshouser, was elected to sit in the governor's mansion in 
Raleigh, and another, Jesse Helms, to represent the state in the U.S. 
Senate. Sim A. Delapp, a former state GOP chairman, remarked, "The 
leadership hasn't brought this party to where it is now. I can tell you 
what's brought it— and any man that knows politics knows. The race 
question brought it." 6 



W hat you felt mostly was scared if you were young and Black in 
those first couple of years following the federal busing order in Mecklen- 
burg County. North Carolina became a focus of racist terror, of mass 
jailings of Black students, and finally of numerous political trials and the 
long imprisonment of scores of key activists and leaders — Black and 
white. 

From hundreds of cases in those years, consider only the following: 
Charles Lee Parker of Roanoke Rapids was sentenced to life imprison- 




52 



Two 



ment on a burglary charge, although the federal district court in Raleigh 
held that he was indicted by an illegal grand jury. Parker, whose mother 
was for years active in the Black community, was 15 years old at time of 
sentencing. 

In Greenville, a white youth and a young Black man were charged with 
raping a white woman. Both defendants denied the charges. They were 
given separate trials. The white boy was freed, the Black sent to prison for 
life. 

Nathan Shoffner, an elderly Black man in Greensboro, was shot to 
death by state patrolman R.A. Clark, after a highway accident. Shoffner 
was alleged to have threatened the patrolman with a knife, before he was 
shot in the leg and allowed to bleed to death on the highway. Clark was 
cleared of any criminal intent. A month before, an unarmed 20-year-old, 
Michael Riggins, was shot in the back by a Greensboro policeman who 
claimed Riggins was running from the scene of a crime. The death was 
ruled justifiable homicide. 

Another young Black man, Lawrence Covington, returned home to 
the rural town of Laurinburg after receiving an engineering degree in the 
North. Hired by a poverty program, he became a defender of the Black 
community against police brutality, and joined a local school boycott. 
He was then accused of raping a 16-year-old white woman on Thanksgiv- 
ing eve, 1970. The alleged victim, whose husband was in the service, said 
that she had come to Covington for food stamps for Thanksgiving; that 
after they had talked about her returning to school to get a high school 
diploma, he turned out the light and had sexual relations with her. The 
young woman was involved in a similar incident some months earlier 
with two Black men, a case in which the charges were dropped. Three 
months after being jailed, Covington was granted bail of $15,000. But it 
was more than he had and he remained in jail. His trial by an all-white 
jury was halted pending a psychiatric examination. The long period of 
confinement had had an adverse effect on Covington's nerves. 

In Charlotte, Roy and Leroy Miller, 21-year-old twins, were stopped 
by police for questioning about a car theft. Roy Miller was shot at point- 
blank range by patrolman J.S. Swain. He was left on the pavement for 
almost an hour and a half while he bled to death, although two 
ambulances arrived immediately. Leroy Miller was arrested and beaten 
at police headquarters until he pleaded guilty to 14 counts of housebreak- 
ing and 3 of resisting arrest. He was sentenced to 8 to 10 years in prison. 
The Miller twins are Black, the police white. Also in Charlotte, patrol- 
man J.D. Ensminger killed 18-year-old Frankie Dunlap after Dunlap 
allegedly attacked the officer with an "Afro" comb. The police chief 

53 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

would not suspend Ensminger; the grand jury refused to bring an 
indictment against him. 

Police in High Point conducted an early morning raid against the 
Black Community Information Center, in what law enforcement offi- 
cials said was an effort to evict the occupants. The building was owned by 
a district court judge who, when told who the tenants were, ordered the 
eviction. No reason was given for the action and none need be under 
North Carolina law. The eviction party included 75 city, county and state 
police, armed with tear gas, bullet-proof vests and automatic shotguns. 
Clearly this was a landlord with a vengeance. The cops sealed off the 
Black community at 6 a.m., an unusual precaution for serving an eviction 
notice. The assault on the office was led by H igh Point police chief Laurie 
Pritchett, who came to national notice as chief of police in Albany, 
Georgia, in the early 1960s. He was known there to lock up every man, 
woman and child who dared protest racial injustice in that town. Many 
were beaten in the Albany jail and police even threatened one young girl 
with rape by a police dog. 

In Charlotte, the law offices of Chambers, Stein, Ferguson and 
Lanning, the firm which won the school-busing suit, were burned to the 
ground. Soon afterwards, a business in Montgomery County, 50 miles 
away, owned by the father of Julius Chambers, head of the law firm, was 
also set afire. A few years earlier, Chambers had escaped assassination 
when his house was dynamited. The FBI and police made no arrests in 
any of the incidents. 

Since the court had ordered desegregation of the Charlotte schools, 
the state's high schools had become the scenes of regular clashes between 
Black students and white students inflamed by racist propaganda or 
police. The Blacks without exception came up short. Over 200 persons 
were arrested in Edenton, for example, growing out of protests over the 
firing of a Black band director in a local high school. Most of those jailed 
were booked on charges of parading without a permit or blocking traffic 
as they marched downtown. Six were arrested for burning a Confederate 
flag, charged with "mutilating, defacing and defiling the flag." Presuma- 
bly the authorities considered the Stars and Bars as the legal symbol to 
which they owed allegiance. 

In Wilson, 6 teenage boys and girls were imprisoned after a Black- 
white high school clash in which 16 Blacks and one white were arrested. 
On pronouncing sentence the judge allowed as how, "We're tired of all 
this protesting. We've got the guns, we've got the money, and we've got 
you outnumbered. We're going to stop you in this way or people are 
going to take things into their own hands." 

54 



Two 

The Statesville high school closed for a few days and several students 
were hospitalized after a free-for-all over a white bus driver's refusal to let 
a Black student board the bus. There were 711 whites and 171 Blacks at the 
school. Mayor Francis R. Quis urged parents of the white students who 
were hospitalized to swear out warrants against Black students, whom he 
described as "criminals." He said that "justice would be swift and sure." 
Police serving papers on one sixteen-year-old Black student, beat him, 
his mother and younger sister, and brought them down to the jail, leaving 
behind a one-year-old child alone. 

School was also closed and several students sent to the hospital in the 
mill town of Kings Mountain, when a group of Black teenagers was 
attacked by a larger group of whites armed with sticks. Two Black 
students, but no whites, were suspended in the wake of the beatings. The 
principal at Kings Mountain, who referred to Black students as 

"n s," took no action against white students who brought guns to 

school. 

About 200 Black students walked out of school in South Mecklenburg 
after a fight between Black and white students. Several carloads of 
county police arrested some of the students leaving the school, on 
grounds of disorderly conduct. The next day more Black students stayed 
home as 17 county police in riot gear patrolled the school. Both West 
Mecklenburg and Myers Park high schools were closed after fights 
between whites and Blacks. The white racist "Concerned Parents Asso- 
ciation" had sent their children to West Mecklenburg in the 1960s to 
escape court-ordered desegregation; subsequently, Black students who 

transferred there in the 1970s were called "n s" and "boys" by their 

teachers. A school coach publicly announced that if he were 20 years 
younger, he would "go out and kill me some n s." 

Teachers in Pender County openly boasted of membership in the Ku 
Klux Klan or in the Rights of White People, another terrorist organiza- 
tion. But a Black student was expelled from school on grounds of 
"suspicion" of belonging to the Black Panther Party. 

Numerous incidents occurred around the efforts of Black students to 
observe the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. At Charlotte's 
Garinger High, fire drills were started by whites during Dr. King's 
birthday memorial, and white non-students appeared on campus with 
machetes, trying to provoke fights with Black pupils. At Harding High 
School, Black students were refused permission to hold a memorial for 
Dr. King, and those who attended services at nearby Johnson C. Smith 
University were suspended. Yet school officials sanctioned country-and- 
western music shows and religious programs for white students. 

55 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Sixty-nine Black high-school students were arrested on felony charges 
of rioting, after fights with whites at Myers Park, South Mecklenburg 
and Olympic high schools in Charlotte. Although evidence indicated that 
whites started the fights in each case, only two whites were apprehended, 
and they were set free after a preliminary hearing. The Black students 
remained in jail for weeks. 

The village of Ayden was torn apart by months of turmoil initially 
sparked by the killing of William Murphy, a Black farm laborer, by white 
patrolman Billy Day. Murphy was shot to death while in handcuffs. Day 
said he arrested Murphy for drunkenness, but Murphy's employer said 
the man was "not noticeably intoxicated" when he saw him five minutes 
before the arrest. The Ayden hospital refused to perform an autopsy, but 
an examination at a Chapel Hill funeral parlor found that Murphy was 
shot in the back. The coroner's jury held that patrolman Day shot the 
man in self-defense. Day was promoted to the highway patrol's personnel 
department. 

Protests of the killing came immediately from the American Civil 
Liberties Union, the NAACP, the Black Panther Party, the Southern 
Christian Leadership Conference, the Black Pastors' Conference of Pitt 
County and the Commission for Racial Justice. In response, Ayden 
authorities declared a curfew to prevent picket demonstrations and 
hundreds of demonstrators were arrested. The Rights of White People 
offered to send 300 men to Ayden "to keep order." 

The Klan threatened to bomb the Ayden-Grifton High School rather 
than permit desegregation. Shortly thereafter a bomb exploded in a rest 
room in the school. Nobody was nearby, so no one was hurt. No 
fingerprints were found, no eye-witnesses located, no evidence of any 
kind discovered. Still, deputy sheriffs arrested a 13-year-old Black 
student and threatened him with death if he didn't "name others." The 
boy said police held a gun to his head at the time. He finally gave names 
of several other boys who were active in the Pitt County movement. One 
of those named, Donald Smith, 17, son of a factory worker, confessed to 
the bombing after being denied the right to see a lawyer and being 
threatened by police if he didn't confess. His forced confession was the 
only evidence against him. 

Donald's trial was a startling example of New Southern justice. 
During the proceedings the judge indicated to the jury his belief in the 
guilt of the defendant. The prosecuting attorney took the members of the 
jury to dinner just before they returned their verdict. When the guilty 
verdict was announced, the prosecutor and the sheriffs deputy who had 
obtained Donald Smith's confession laughed loudly and jumped with 
glee. The deputy has since been named police chief in Ayden. 

56 



Two 

The teenager was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Notice of appeal was 
filed but later withdrawn when the defense attorney received a sentence 
of 20 years for the youth in return for agreement never to again appeal. 
On the day that Donald's appeal was withdrawn, 10 other teenage boys 
also pleaded guilty. With no evidence against them except forced confes- 
sions, the Ayden 11, teenagers all, were sentenced to a total of 133 years in 
North Carolina prisons. 

Such were the circumstances in which Ben Chavis emerged as the 
leader of North Carolina's Black youth and their families in the quest for 
equal education. 



By September of 1970, Ben was really into his work as the commission 
for Racial Justice's field organizer. Requests for help from Black com- 
munities all over the state came into the Commission office and Ben tried 
to respond. Even after his Charlotte and Oxford experiences, he was to 
retain "unbelievable" and "incredible" in his lexicon, testimony to the 
American Dream. He would be going into town after town to organize 
with his eyes wide shut, as it were. 

Black parents would call upon the Commission to help, and the 
Commission would call upon Ben. Now he was asked to come to the 
Nutbush community, a Black section of Vance County, four miles north 
of Henderson, the county seat, about 20 minutes drive from Oxford. 
Again, schools were the issue: The county schools had just been desegreg- 
ated, resulting in the busing of some children from the all-Black Nutbush 
elementary school to the formerly all-white Middleburg school, crowd- 
ing the classrooms beyond capacity. The board of education refused to 
provide enough mobile units to hold the students, using the resultant 
overcrowding as an excuse to send most of the Black students back to 
Nutbush. Black parents felt this was unfair: Nutbush's facilities were 
terribly inadequate, and if students were going to be moved out of 
Middleburg and back to Nutbush, they should be Black and white alike. 
Hot lunches were prepared only at Middleburg, then driven several miles 
to Nutbush where they were cold upon arrival. 

Ben's first act, together with the Rev. Leon White, was to call the 
parents together at Oak Level United Church of Christ Church, and set 
up a rudimentary organizational structure — elect a president and secre- 
tary, have minutes taken at meetings, develop a program, in this case how 
to close down the Nutbush school and get all the kids back over to 
Middleburg. Obviously Nutbush did not exist in a vacuum. Ben went 

57 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

into Henderson, the scene of his childhood memories of the National 
Guard violently crushing the cotton-mill workers' strike. Black students 
in the Henderson schools also had problems and, with Ben's help, joined 
the Nutbush community in organizing a Vance County United Student 
Association. The association drew up its demands for equal education 
and presented them to the school board. When no response was forth- 
coming, they decided to march. 

The march was to begin at the all-Black Kittrell College and continue 
eight miles into Henderson. The police chief and city manager said they 
would march only "through their own blood" but not through Vance 
County and Henderson. The association asked the governor for protec- 
tion; its members were determined to march, despite threats from on 
high. Four hundred students started out from Kittrell and were joined by 
others along the way. Some folks came up from Granville County, and 
by the time they approached the city line their numbers had swelled to 
2,500. They marched along a state highway, and when the highway patrol 
showed up they assumed their petition to the governor had been an- 
swered. But the patrolmen were asking them to call off the march, to get 
off the highway. On the other side of the city line, the Henderson police 
had gathered, reinforced by the cops of Oxford, Franklinton, Warrenton 
and surrounding communities. They blocked the highway with fire- 
trucks. All the businesses in downtown Henderson were boarded up. Car 
dealers took their automobiles off the lots and hid them out of fear of 
broken windows, as the schoolchildren and clergy approached the town. 
Police, firetrucks and blockaded highways notwithstanding, the Vance 
County United Student Association was going to march. They had 
already gone eight miles and were not going to stop now. The highway 
patrol, seeing their determination, pulled rank on the locals and per- 
suaded the Henderson police to allow the march to continue. Numbers 
told that day, thousands of marchers and only scores of police. 

With the success of the march, the association organized an economic 
boycott of downtown Henderson. If it could work in Oxford, why not 
here. The protest movement had grown from tiny rural Nutbush to a 
county-wide movement, and Henderson became the center. Association 
meetings moved to the Davis Chapel in town. One night they met to plan 
a march on the courthouse where a number of Black students were on 
trial for fighting whites in the schools. The association decided to fill the 
courtroom. When the judge arrived in court the next day to face a room 
full of Black people, he called Ben back to his chambers and wanted an 
explanation. "We want to see justice done," said the young organizer. "I 
know you're going to turn the brothers loose 'cause they didn't do 

58 



Two 

anything and we all wanted to witness this justice." The judge said he 
wasn't going to be intimidated, but would let the students go if they 
marched back to the Black community, and didn't cause a disturbance 
downtown. Ben agreed they'd march back home real orderly. But the 
police chief argued that there would be no march in his town, not after 
there had just been one against his firm determination and best judg- 
ment. The judge decided there had to be order in the court, and the order 
he issued the police chief obeyed. The students were allowed to march 
back home, another victory in hand. 

As the protests gathered, so did the resistance. State police tailed Ben 
wherever he went in Vance County. One evening a patrol car pulled up 
behind Ben and stopped him. The cops told him it was a routine check, 
they just wanted to see his license and registration and to search the car. 
Ben said they couldn't search his car without a warrant. The police pulled 
out their billies and drew their revolvers — warrants enough in Hender- 
son — and asked Ben to put his lights on. One of his signal lights was 
faulty. They arrested him, took his car keys, searched his car, took him 
downtown, booked him for driving with only one signal light, and set 
bond for $200. Ben refused to post bond, arguing he was arrested without 
cause. The association began to demonstrate at the jail, and a Human 
Relations Division man from the U.S. Justice Department, aware of the 
tension accumulating in Henderson, decided to post bond for Ben. When 
the case was brought before the judge, he dismissed the charge after the 
police testified they were searching the car for weapons but found none. 

The association planned another march on the school board. Autumn 
was turning to winter and the first frost had come and gone. It was 
growing cold and marches in comfort were a thing for a season past. 
Demonstrations were organized without permits from the city, which 
denied each request. On the morning of a march on the school board, the 
town newspaper reported that the county had acquired a pepper-fog 
machine for riot control. The march to the board took place without 
incident, but as the students headed back home, a line of police with gas- 
masks on approached them. They were towing a strange machine, 
billowing white smoke. The marchers panicked and ran back to the Black 
community, making their way into a church. Ben began to lead them in 
singing spirituals, certain in their knowledge that their holy surroundings 
would be off-limits to the pepper-gas. But the police were relentless; tear- 
gas canisters were thrown through the windows of the church. Outside 
the pepper-fog machine was cranking out its toxic smoke. Inside the 
church, the demonstrators lay on the floor, gasping for breath. 

The community reacted with anger. A struggle ensued to wrest the gas 

59 



Nothing Could Be Finer 



machine away from the police. The police drew their guns and fired some [ 
warning rounds. Folks in the neighborhood headed home for their own 
protection. In the melee, an 88-year-old Black woman who lived across 
the street from the church, choked to death from the tear-gas. A fireman 
was found dead, fatally wounded by his own pistol according to the next 
day's paper. A tobacco warehouse across the street from the Davis 
Chapel went up in smoke, destroying several thousands of dollars worth 
of Bright leaf. Governor Scott, with a nose for property rights, sent in the 
National Guard. 

It took a few days for the air to clear and the Guard to clear out and by 
that time the school board had come to terms with the demands of the 
association. Save one: The Nutbush school was still open and Black kids 
in that community were still coming up short. The superintendent of 
public education was holding firm on that, the problem that initially 
brought Ben to Vance County. It was marching time again, this time with 
a warning from the association that the marchers were going into the ; 
school board building, that Nutbush would be closed and the kids there 
sent back to Middleburg, or hell would be paid before the demonstrators 
left the building. 

Agents from the State Bureau of Investigation warned of arrests if they 
entered the school board building. Ben's reply was that they'd been 
struggling for over a month to close Nutbush and the struggle had been 
just, they'd take their chances with arrests. One SBI man asked the 
demonstrators to give him a few minutes alone with the school board 
chief, and entered the building. Before the hour was up, the school 
superintendent came outside and announced that Nutbush school was 
closed from that day on. 



U ntil the Nutbush student protest came along, Henderson had been a 
pretty quiet town for nearly a decade. But back in November 1958, over a 
thousand members of the Textile Workers Union of America walked out 
of the two Harriet-Henderson Cotton Mills, the start of what was to 
become one of the longest — and among the most violent — industrial 
strikes in U.S. labor history. Adopting more positions than the Kama 
Sutra, then Governor Luther Hodges called the Henderson strike, "a blot 
on North Carolina," "the most difficult single problem I faced," "one 
strike in which just about everybody was at fault." 7 

In fact the Henderson strike, which lasted nearly three years, saw the 
entire repressive state apparatus used to break the union. One fifth of the 




60 



Two 



state's police forces were used against the strike. A virtual police state was 
established by injunction and enforced by the highway patrol and 
National Guard, with fixed bayonets and with authority to arrest 
arbitrarily, given to them by a special act of the state legislature. A 
superior court judge ordered in the Guard to prevent mass picketing. 
Soon a military police platoon from Greensboro came to Henderson, 
followed by other units, all of the 2nd Battle Group of the 119th Infantry 
of the 30th Division. 8 

In the course of the strike, nearly $300,000 in bail bonds were exacted 
from almost 200 union members, arrested on at best flimsy pretexts. In 
addition, the state sent a special judge and special prosecutor to hold a 
special court in which union members and their sympathizers were, in 
almost every case, sentenced to hard labor on road-gangs and given 
heavy fines. 

The company had been unionized for 14 years; union recognition was 
not at issue. Rather this was an attempt by the company to break the 
contract and destroy the union. At contract negotiations, the company 
tried to rewrite and void every clause in previously held union contracts. 
When the union voted to walk out, Governor Hodges ordered 150 
highway patrolmen to Henderson. The town and the whole of Vance 
County quickly became "an armed camp," in the view of Boyd Payton, 
Carolinas director of the union. 9 Payton, who became a central figure in 
the strike, was beaten in his Henderson motel room the day after he 
arrived in town to help out. Some 40 instances of bombings or dynamit- 
ings of workers' homes and neighborhoods were on record when Gover- 
nor Hodges sent in the National Guard — against the strikers. Madness 
enveloped the company's agents; one assistant foreman broke his leg 
when he plunged from an upper-story window of the mills, screaming, 
"They're after me," and pointing at the mill where only other supervisors 
and strike-breakers remained. A striker's son, home on leave from the 
army, reached the injured foreman and obtained medical help for the 
man. A few hours later, that same striker's son was wounded by a 
shotgun blast directed by another supervisor. 

The strike quickly became a lockout, with union members barred from 
the plant, strike-breakers brought in in their place, the first real test of the 
"right to work" law in North Carolina's huge textile industry. Between 
February 16 and May 1, 1959, to take at random ten weeks of the strike, 90 
cases came before the special court dealing with the strike. These 
included 7 strike-breakers with a total of 12 charges, 2 company foremen 
with 4 charges, and 29 union members with a total of 74 charges. The 7 
strike-breakers were found "not guilty" on 8 of the 12 counts, 2 other 

61 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

charges were declared "non-suited," one was found "guilty" for speeding, 
and the other was disposed of with a notation, "pending further action." 
Of the two foremen, one was found guilty of disorderly conduct, the 
other of assault with a deadly weapon, but the records for both show, 
"Sentence to be given later." Of the 29 union members, 2 received "not 
guilty" verdicts, the rest were sentenced to numerous fines and prison 
sentences of as much as 21 months "on the roads." 

Not one strike-breaker or company supervisor in the course of the 
three-year strike was ever fined or given a jail sentence. 10 Eight top union 
officers, including Boyd Payton, were sentenced to 9 and 10 years in 
prison on charges of "conspiracy" to dynamite a textile plant and a 
Carolina Power and Light sub-station. Special Judge Raymond Mallard 
kept his pledge when he declared in court, "If you want to be sons of 
bitches, I can be a bigger son of a bitch than all of you put together." The 
case against Payton and the other union leaders — a conspiracy of the 
oddest sort, some of the "conspirators" never having met nor talked to 
one another until the trial— rested on the testimony of a tormented, 
alcoholic informer with a record of a dozen arrests for hit-and-run, auto 
theft, impersonating a policeman, drunk-driving, assault, and such. This 
petty criminal, Harold Aaron, in league with the State Bureau of 
Investigation which held a handful of prosecutions over his head, was 
called "the bravest man I know," by the state's special prosecutor. The 
solicitor compared Aaron ("a brave man with real guts") to the defen- 
dants ("low-bellied cowards") and concluded that Aaron was an "honest 
and trustworthy citizen of the state who believed in preserving law and 
order and was willing to expose himself to great danger in order to 
protect the good people of North Carolina."" The sum of Aaron's 
testimony was that, while in the employ of the SBI, he had talked on the 
telephone with the defendants and that he discerned a conspiracy. 

When Boyd Payton and his co-defendants were well into their prison 
terms for a "dynamiting" that even the state never alleged took place, it 
was revealed that Aaron received at least $1,100 for his testimony. The 
evidence came to light when Aaron was arrested in Martinsville, Vir- 
ginia, where he was sharing a motel room with a 17-year-old high school 
girl, and where he shot another man who refused to leave the room. 
Indicted and brought to trial, Aaron was found guilty and fined only $100 
for this aggravated assault and attempted murder. The sentencing came 
after secret conferences between North Carolina and Virginia "criminal 
justice" officials. 12 

The combination of company manipulation and government coercion 
left the Henderson Cotton Mill workers without a union, unprotected 

62 



Two 



against future abuses. Given the amount of resources garnered on both 
sides, the outcome of so many months of sharpened class warfare ending 
in the workers' defeat had an anaesthetic effect on textile organizing in 
North Carolina which has not yet worked off completely. 



V ictory day for the students in Henderson in 1970 was so different 
from the weeks that preceded it. The demonstrators marched back to the 
Davis Chapel — no teargas on this march — to celebrate. But first they met 
and agreed to establish a permanent community organization, the Vance 
County Improvement Association, which still carries on its work. Later 
that evening a public celebration was held to hail the latest victory and 
the new organization. 

In the audience were some high school students who had driven over 
from Warrenton in the next county. They said that they too were having 
problems in the schools and that they needed help. A man with a mission 
by now, Ben Chavis never went home that night, but left the celebration 
and headed directly for Warrenton to meet with the students. Their 
grievances were similar to those of the students in Henderson and every 
other town in North Carolina. Black students had to sit in the back of the 
classrooms; white teachers constantly abused them with racist epithets; 
Black girls were not allowed to become majorettes with the school band. 

The protest movement in Warrenton was patterned on that of Hender- 
son. Marches on the school board met with no results in the beginning. A 
school boycott was called and the school-bus drivers, in some cases 
parents of students, refused to drive. The highway patrol was called out; 
police cars followed Ben, even when he went home to Oxford. Black high 
school seniors were expelled, but Ben helped set up a mechanism to 
enroll them in a General Education Degree program at Kittrell College, 
where they finished high school and many continued on to also complete 
college studies. The Henderson police sent their pepper-fog machine to 
Warrenton, as a symbol of fraternity in malice. Frank Ballance, a Black 
attorney and community leader in the town and a friend of Ben's, was 
beaten up in the street by some Warrenton cops. 

(At the age of 16, Alfreda Jordan, president of the Warren County 
Student Association, was sent, along with 30 other Black female stu- 
dents, to Women's Prison in Raleigh for two days as punishment for their 
movement activities. When she finished high school at Kittrell College, 
she entered Shaw University and later graduated from the North Car- 
olina Central University Law School in Durham. Had it been left to the 




63 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Warren County school officials Alfreda Jordan might have remained at 
Women's Prison.) 

What was happening in Warrenton was happening throughout North 
Carolina. Ben left Warrenton in the midst of its struggle, which would be 
protracted, and headed for Bladen County in the southeast part of the 
state. The Warrenton students were already organized and leading 
themselves, and those in Bladen County were asking for his help. 

By now the problems were familiar— racism in the schools growing out 
of the court-ordered desegregation. The rural east of North Carolina, 
which engulfed the towns Ben was organizing, is part of the original 
Black Belt of the U.S. South. Industrialization was still unfamiliar for the 
most part. Folks here were farmers, some in tobacco, some in peanuts, 
but farmers all. Forty miles from the Bladen County seat of Elizabeth- 
town is East Arcadia, a virtually all-Black community. The authorities 
had closed down the elementary and junior high schools in East Arcadia, 
compelling the students to go to school in Elizabethtown. That meant an 
80-mile round trip every day. The highway was particularly dangerous 
because it was used by oil tankers supplying the state from Wilmington. 

The day after Ben arrived in Bladen County, he took some of the East 
Arcadia students and parents with him to meet with the school board in 
Elizabethtown. The delegation wanted to know why it was necessary to 
close down the East Arcadia schools, and asked that there at least be 
parity, with some white students being bused there instead of the planned 
one-way busing. The board refused as expected, and the demonstrations 
began. It has been said that violence is as American as frozen foods, and 
if that be the case, Elizabethtown is an All-American city. One evening, 
in response to the student demonstrations, a group of racist thugs drove 
out to a Black youth club on the outskirts of town and shot eight people. 
Four of them died. One of the killers was a department-store owner 
whose enterprise was destroyed by fire the next day. 

Out in East Arcadia, the high school continued in operation. Only the 
smaller children from the grammar school and junior high were bused to 
Elizabethtown. In the weeks of the demonstrations for equity in busing, 
the Bladen County sheriffs received a bomb threat at the high school. A 
helicopter with demolition experts from Fort Bragg was flown to the 
school; some sticks of dymanite were found in the cellar, although they 
were not wired to explode. Nevertheless, the authorities were concerned 
enough to reopen the elementary and junior high schools for integrated 
classes in time for the New Year, 1971. 

While Ben was working in East Arcadia, nearby Wilmington was 
beginning a long, hot winter. Fights were breaking out in the high schools 

64 



Two 

as Black students moved to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday, 
January 15, in the schools. Rev. Eugene Templeton, the white pastor of 
Gregory Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ affiliate in 
Wilmington's Black community, asked the Commission for Racial 
Justice to send Ben to the port city. 

No town in North Carolina summons up images of the mint-julip-and- 
magnolia anti-bellum days as does Wilmington. Here it was that the state 
militia fired 100 guns to salute the withdrawal of South Carolina from the 
Union in December 1860. Wilmington soon became the center of the 
state's secessionist movement. The Red Shirt counterrevolution of 1898, 
which brought the violent overthrow of the democratic Reconstruc- 
tionist city government and the massacre of scores of Black Wilmingto- 
nians, is recorded for posterity as the town's glory days. Once named an 
"All-American City" by the now defunct Look magazine, Wilmington's 
main parks, schools and historical sites are named for the Red Shirt 
leadership. Historical markers abound in this city of azalea festivals and 
weeping-willow gardens. Recorded here are such precious historical 
trivia as the fact that Mary Baker Eddy lived in a house in town for part 
of the year 1844. 

The city fathers are not totally immersed in the distant past, however. 
Once the state's largest city, Wilmington is still its major port. Its 
importance to the state's economy can be ascertained from the fact that 
each year it handles nearly a quarter of a billion pounds of leaf tobacco, 
worth more than $250 million for a single commodity. In recent years 
major industries like DuPont Chemical, General Electric and Hercules 
Power have built plants with total investments reaching hundreds of 
millions of dollars. 

Social change however has come to Wilmington at a slower pace than 
economic change. In 1968, following the murder of Martin Luther King, 
passions surfaced in Wilmington as elsewhere. Several businesses were 
destroyed by fire and the National Guard was sent in. Still, the power 
structure remained unresponsive to the needs of the Black community. 
Blacks occupied nearly all of the city's public housing, but when a 
vacancy opened on the housing authority in 1968, another white was 
appointed to the post. A few weeks later, the city reopened the municipal 
incinerator, located in the heart of the ghetto, which had been closed as a 
fire and health hazard. Some voices of opposition were raised but it was 
clear that individual protests could be absorbed like rain on an ocean. 

In 1970, the housing authority refused to consider the request of Black 
residents that a new project be named for Dr. King. That same year, a 
career marine at Camp Lejeune named Leroy Gibson left the corps, after 

65 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

putting in his 20 years, to form the Rights of White People organization 
( ROWP). The ROWP was composed primarily of ex-Marines and some 
active-duty soldiers as a paramilitary unit which would "do the job the 
Klan was afraid to do," according to Gibson. Based in nearby Jackson- 
ville, off base from Lejeune, the ROWP made frequent forays into 
Wilmington, at first to protest the hiring of Black stevedores on the 
docks. 

Gibson, who is considered clinically sane, has discussed the formation 
of ROWP: "The marines were going downhill. They started giving 
Blacks permission to use the Black-Power salute in the Corps. This is a 
Communist salute to start with . . . Blacks were on a rampage throughout 
America and nobody was saying anything about it. So 1 said, 'What we 
need is an organization to meet these people head on' . . . You can no 
longer give in to these revolutionaries and ever expect to get anything 
done. You've got to stop them . . . Stop all this rape, robbery and 
demands, is what it amounts to . . .We [ROWP] strive for leadership, for 

people that know a lot about firearms Now we've put together sort of 

a leadership council of 12 organizations — the Klan, the Renaissance 
party, the Minutemen, you name it . . . The newspapers don't bother me. 
As long as they don't attack us openly, I can live with it. That's their 
business, that's the free enterprise system. But if they printed an article 
that I didn't like, and it wasn't proven, then I'd shoot them." (Interview 
with author, February 23, 1974.) 

As usual the schools were central to the racial tension that gripped 
Wilmington. That semester, city police beat and arrested Black students 
who were protesting the barring of Black cheerleaders at the newly 
desegregated Hoggard High. At New Hanover High, a similarly peaceful 
protest by Blacks was broken up by white students shouting racial slurs. 
Again, city police armed with mace entered the school and beat Black 
students with blackjacks while letting go free the whites who provoked 
the clash. 

Ben Chavis was still organizing in Bladen County late that fall when 
fights again broke out in the Wilmington schools. Just before Christmas 
vacation, 17 Black students at New Hanover High were suspended 
indefinitely for fighting with whites, but no whites were suspended. In 
response, 500 of the school's 700 Black students walked out of school. 
The boycott continued past the Christmas vacation into January. Then, 
in late January, a white boy assaulted a young Black girl with a knife. The 
New Hanover principal suspended the victim but did not punish the 
white boy. 

Black students called a meeting at the Gregory Congregational United 
66 



Two 

Church of Christ, pastored by the Rev. Eugene Templeton, to draw up a 
list of grievances to present to the board of education. The list included 
demands for no suspension of students without stated cause; establish- 
ment of a Black studies program; celebration of Martin Luther King's 
birthday as a day of mourning; agreement of the New Hanover High 
principal to hear the Black side as well as the white in Black-white 
disputes; agreement of the principal to investigate the knife-assault on 
the Black woman student by the white student. When the board of 
education chose to ignore the demands, the students decided to call a 
boycott and Rev. Templeton decided to ask the United Church of Christ 
Commission for Racial Justice for help. The commission sent Ben 
Chavis to Wilmington. 



William Faulkner once said of the continuum of history, "The past is 
never dead; it is not even past." So it is (and was) with the New South of 
Wilmington— of 1898. 

Speaking before the New England Society of New York in 1886, Henry 
Grady, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, uttered words "that subse- 
quent generations of Southern schoolboys would be required to commit 
to memory. ,,|3 Those words pronounced the end of the Old South of 
slavery and the beginning of a New South of freedom. New South 
visionaries pinned their hopes on the industrial revolution moving in a 
southerly direction, leaving towns in its wake where there had previously 
been mere villages. With the white whale of finance capital and industry 
inside smelling distance, the New South mariners pursued their prey 
without relent. 

For more than a century the New South myth has been perpetrated at 
various moments, and in each case North Carolina has been put forth as 
the prime example of progressivism. Most often this image of North 
Carolina results from its heavy industrialization in the midst of tradi- 
tional rural backwardness. During the Civil War, North Carolina was 
the only state in the Confederacy to clothe its own troops, for example. 
And after the Southern defeat, Northern capital moved into the state in a 
big way. In 1880, Northern capital investments in North Carolina 
industry amounted to $13 million; by the turn of the century they reached 
$76.5 million. Between the end of the war and 1900, the state's industry 
saw its capitalization increase six-fold, its industrial workforce, four- 
fold. The bulk of this influx of Northern investment came after the 
violent overthrow of Reconstruction. In the 20-year period between 1880 

67 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

and 1900, capitalization of the state's textile industry increased on an 
average per factory from less than $60,000 to $186,000. According to 
Burlington Industries, "The textile industry before 1900 was based 
predominantly on local enterprise, local capital, local management and 
local labor. In the 1890s however, there was a notable movement of 
Northern capital into the state's textile interests and a small beginning of 
the exodus of Northern mills to the south." Small wonder: Annual wages 
then averaged $216 for men, $157 for women and $103 for children, the 
latter used extensively. 14 

The story of Buck Duke and his tobacco discovery is as much a part of 
North Carolina folklore, and is told to children at least as often, as Ben 
Franklin's kite-flying and Davey Crockett's death at the Alamo. 15 Seems 
that when the first shot of the Civil War was fired at Fort Sumter, a 
workable method of curing Bright leaf tobacco had been perfected in 
Caswell County, North Carolina. With Richmond on the front lines and 
its plants cut off from new supplies, the demand for good southern 
tobacco caused a number of manufacturers to set up shop in the Old 
Bright Belt of the Tarheel state. When the war was over, 45-year-old 
Washington Duke, captured at Richmond, imprisoned and freed after 
Appomattox, came home to his farm outside of Durham with all of 50 
cents in his pocket. War had stripped his 300 acres bare, save for a little 
Bright tobacco leaf. Hitching his wagon to two blind mules, Duke and his 
sons hauled their tobacco to market, where the tobacco was readily sold. 

Old Wash Duke discovered that, while he had been languishing in 
prison, some 80,000 Confederate and Union troops under Joe Johnson 
and Sherman were awaiting peace terms near Durham. They discovered 
Caswell County Bright leaf, bought it out, loved it so much they yearned 
for more. When the soldiers were discharged at war's end, they returned 
to their 80,000 homes, walking advertisements for what was soon to be 
known as Bull Durham. 

Sales multiplied, the Dukes moved to Durham, and the youngest son, 
James Buchanan "Buck" Duke took over the manufacturing end of the 
business. Using machines from Virginia and leaf from North Carolina, 
Buck went to market in New York. By 1889, Duke was selling more than 
800 million cigarettes annually, nearly 40 percent of all U.S. sales. He 
formed the American Tobacco Company in 1890, and by the turn of the 
century had a capitalization of $25 million. Duke followed the premise of 
his contemporary, Southern Pacific railroad magnate Collis P. Hunt- 
ington, who held that, "Everything that isn't nailed down is mine, and 
anything I can pry loose isn't nailed down." He bought up Lorillard, 
Liggett and Meyers of St. Louis, Reynolds and several lesser companies. 

68 



Two 

"America has many merchant princes and captains of industry" wrote 
Leslie's Weekly in 1906, "but only three industrial kings: John D. 
Rockefeller in oil, Andrew Carnegie in steel, and James B. Duke in 
tobacco." 

Buck Duke said to himself, "If John D. Rockefeller can do what he is 
doing for oil, why should not I do it in tobacco." 16 Textile and tobacco 
towns grew up throughout the Carolina Piedmont. Greensboro, popul- 
ated by only 497 persons in 1870, had more than 10,000 at the turn of the 
century. Winston rose from 443 to 10,000 in the same period; and 
Charlotte from 4,473 to 18,091. Durham, unlisted in the 1870 census, had 
6,679 by 1900. 17 By 1880, most of the state's 126 tobacco factories were 
located in Durham or Winston. Tobacco was regarded as a strictly 
private enterprise or a family affair. And though the families were named 
Duke and Reynolds, the labor force was almost exclusively Black, with 
an average per capita annual wage of $136 at the opening of the twentieth 
century. As Nelson Rockefeller was to remark more than half-way into 
that century, "The chief problem of the low-income farmers is poverty." 

Northern investors found they could pick up a nice piece of change in 
the South, especially in North Carolina. The Arkwright Club of New 
England, under the direction of textile manufacturers, issued a report in 
1897 which delineated the South's obvious virtues: cheap labor, longer 
hours of labor, legislation restricting the organization of trade unions but 
not corporate plunder. The report estimated that Southern labor cost 40 • 
percent less than in New England; the North Carolina work-day was 24 
percent longer than that of Massachussets. 18 In 1906 the average work 
week for a mill hand was 69 hours. Tied to their machines day and night 
and housed in mill-owned shanty villages, the developing North Carolina 
working class lived an existence out of a Dickens nightmare. 

The year 1900 saw the Carolina Piedmont shaken by labor strikes and 
lockouts in at least 30 separate mills. Caesar Cone, whose Cone Mills are 
today the country's leading manufacturer of denim, closed his factory 
and announced he would tear down his mill before submitting to a union. 
He soon reopened the plant with non-union labor under a "yellow-dog" 
contract. In the state's textile center, Alamance County, which had also 
been the site of the Klan's most violent crusade, 17 mills combined to 
resist a strike by firing every union member and evicting them from the 
mill villages. 19 

That the initial industrial growth of North Carolina took place in 
tandem with the Ku Klux salad days was no mere coincidence. The Klan 
was led after all by the bankers and textile barons and by the politicians 
and clergy that did their bidding. The absolute control of labor depended 

69 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

on the establishment of white supremacy. If white workers saw their 
interests in common with white industrialists instead of with Black 
workers, their fidelity to capitalism was secured. Meantime, those whites 
who resisted felt the same lash wielded against Blacks. 20 In the years 
1889-1899, nearly a third of the lynch victims were white. The Charlotte 
Observer, which has been through the years a sort of house organ for the 
textile industry, hailed on June 27, 1900, "the struggle of the white people 
of North Carolina to rid themselves of the dangers of the rule of Negroes 
and the lower class of whites." 21 

The consolidation of democratic gains under Reconstruction had to be 
blocked, the new political realignment subverted, the new constitutional 
amendments countermanded. At "the peak and crown" of Reconstruc- 
tion, in W.J. Cash's words, 62 Blacks held public office in North 
Carolina's Craven County. In more than 50 counties in the state, Black 
magistrates "sat in judgment on white men — and, as the orators did not 
fail to note, white women." Blacks debated in the state legislature, and 
one Black man was a member of the Tarheel congressional delegation in 
Washington. 22 

To reverse this situation required the violent overthrow of the demo- 
cratically-elected government, the first in the state's history. A climate of 
fear and hatred was created. Racism was combined with sadism in 
defense of the old order to produce the same kinds of results that in the 
next century became commonplace under the Third Reich. Cash wrote, 

From the 1880's on . . . there appears a waning inclination to abandon such 
relatively mild and decent ways of dispatching the mob's victim as hanging 
and shooting in favor of burning, often of roasting over slow fires, after 
preliminary mutilations and tortures — a disposition to revel in the infliction 
of the most devilish and prolonged agonies. . . . 

The growing lads of the country, reflecting prevailing sentiment in naked 
simplicity, and quick to see that the man who was pointed out as having slain 
five or eight or 13 Negroes . . . still walked about free, quick to penetrate the 
expressions of disapproval which might accompany the recital of his deeds, to 
evaluate the chuckles with which such recitals were too often larded, to detect 
the hidden note of pride and admiration — these lads inevitably tended to see 
such a scoundrel very much as he saw himself: as a gorgeous beau sabreur, 
hardly less splendid than the most magnificent cavalry captain. 23 

The overthrow of Reconstruction was completed with the violent 
counterrevolution in Wilmington, the largest city in North Carolina at 
the end of the nineteenth century. Wilmington had been the most 
important Confederate seaport in the upper South. Here an elaborate 

70 



Two 



system of forts had been constructed by Black slaves and the forced labor 
of Indian workers, kidnapped and taken from nearby Robeson County 
by the Confederate Home Guards to work and die in the pest holes of 
New Hanover County. 24 With the post-war industrial development, the 
port city became vital to the state's burgeoning economy as a shipping 
outlet. 

From 1870 to the present, the Democratic Party has had majority 
representation in the North Carolina legislature with one brief, excep- 
tional interlude— the years 1895-1901, commonly known as the Fusion 
period. The Fusionists were those who combined the Republican Party 
with the Populists to defeat the Democrats. The Fusionist effort finally 
met defeat with the forceful overthrow of the government by the 
Democrats. That putsch was centered in Wilmington. 25 The virtual 
dictatorship of the Democrats came into power using the false issue of 
"Negro domination," not alone to establish a one-party system in North 
Carolina, but to do so on behalf of the emerging industrial and commer- 
cial forces in the state. 

"The industrial growth of North Carolina in the 1880's and 1890V 
wrote a leading scholar of the period, "was reflected in the growth of the 
Democratic party into whose ranks came many lawyers, textile mill 
owners and railroad magnates. While the leadership of the party was not 
captured by the industrial or capitalistic element until the 1890's, its 
presence gave the party in the 1880's a 'pro-corporation' attitude which 
was further enhanced by 'machine politics.'" 26 In the 1890s, North 
Carolina was in the midst of tremendous industrial growth. Invested 
capital in manufacturing had increased from $13 million in 1880 to $76.5 
million in 1900; the value of manufactured goods from $20 million to $95 
million. The furniture industry, for example, increased from 6 factories 
making $159,000 worth of products to 44 factories making $1.5 million in 
the 1890s alone. Textile mills increased four times over, invested capital 
twelvefold, value of products elevenfold, and number of workers nine 
times over between 1880 and 1900. "The industrial magnates and railroad 
financiers who managed these aggregate capitalistic enterprises were 
members and beneficiaries of the Democratic party." 27 

Capitalist industry is by its nature undemocratic: Owners set goals, 
managers and their foremen drive the workforce to produce those goals, 
the workers themselves are not consulted. If the workers should protest, 
they are fired. This set of power relations held even more true in the 
milltowns of North Carolina than elsewhere, as the mills owned the 
towns and the houses in which the workers lived. That "dictatorship of 
the bourgeoisie" which characterized North Carolina industry, also 

71 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

characterized North Carolina government when the bourgeoisie took 

state power. 

In Wilmington today tribute is still paid in varied forms to the 
"founding father of modern Wilmington," Hugh McRae. McRae be- 
came president of the Wilmington Cotton Mills in 1895. Five years later, 
with the destruction of the Fusion effort, he was named president of the 
Wilmington Gas Light Company, in which position he was able to 
consolidate the railways, mills and light and power facilities of the 
coastal capital. The Tide Water Power Company, a forerunner of today's 
Carolina Power and Light, was formed a few years later under McRae, in 
cooperation with representatives of all the major banks in the area. 28 
Such rapid consolidation of financial and industrial power and its 
consequential control over government was enabled to take hold, in large 
measure because of the demolition of the democratic features of Recon- 
struction, most especially the voting rights of Black people. The brutal 
events in Wilmington at the turn of the century were the culmination of 
that demolition. Not that disenfranchisement would be limited to Blacks. 
One of McRae' s contemporaries, Charles Aycock, who became governor 
of North Carolina in the years after the defeat of the Fusionists, led the 
statewide campaign for disenfranchisement. Although Aycock repeat- 
edly assured whites that they would retain the vote, it soon became 
apparent that leaders of the movement "saw in it an opportunity to 
establish in power'the intelligence and wealth of the South,' which would 
of course 'govern in the interest of all classes."' 29 

The disenfranchisement campaign centered around an appeal to racist 
fears of "Negro domination." The campaign's success rested on its ability 
to awaken that particular sleeping dog. Actually only one member of 
North Carolina's congressional delegation to Washington in those years, 
George H. White, was Black, hardly a "dominating" ratio. In addition to 
Rep. White, the customs collector in Wilmington's port, John C. Dancy, 
was Black. A Black postmaster, S. H. Vick, served in Wilson, and a Black 
deputy revenue collector, Dr. James E. Shepard, worked in Raleigh. In 
addition to these federal posts occupied by Black men, there were four 
Black representatives in the state legislature and several in county 
positions — registrars of deeds, deputy sheriffs, coroners and justices of 
the peace— primarily in the Black Beit areas. Dozens of city aldermen 
across the state were Black. In the Wilmington of 1897, three Black 
aldermen served on the city board, representing the Fusion ticket. 30 

Nevertheless, in May 1898, the state Democratic convention adopted a 
platform which pledged the abolition of "Negro domination," and 
promised "rule by the white men of the state." 31 As the Democrats 

72 



Two 

charted the path to white supremacy, their press marched to the beat of a 
crazed drummer. The News and Observer of Raleigh carried stories 
during the Fall election campaign under the following headlines: "Negro 
Control in Wilmington," "Unbridled Lawlessness on the Streets," 
"Greenville Negroized," "The Negro in Power in New Hanover," "Flag- 
man Caught Negro Convict," "Tried to Register an Idiot," "Chicken 
Under His Arm," "Black Radical Convention Wants to Send Delegate to 
Congress," "Arrested by a Negro: He Was Making No Resistance," "A 
Negro Insulted the Post Mistress Because He Did Not Get a Letter," 
"Negroism in Lenoir County," "Negro on Train With Big Feet Behind 
White," "Is a Race Clash Unavoidable?" and on and on and on. The 
paper's cartoons followed the same dubious star. The Black legislator, 
James H. Young, was depicted inspecting the living quarters of fright- 
ened white women. Other cartoons showed a big black foot with a white 
man pinned underneath, with the caption, "How Long Will This Last?"; 
a Black man hit on the arm by a sledge marked "Honest White Man," 
captioned "Get Back, We Will Not Stand It"; a body drowning at sea 
with a hand inscribed "North Carolina" reaching out of the water, 
captioned "White Man to Rescue"; a Black road overseer ordering 
whites to work on the chain gangs; a bat with claws and "Negro rule" 
written on its wings, with white men and women under the claws, 
captioned "The Vampire that Hovers Over North Carolina." 32 

The Democrat Aycock's gubernatorial campaign managers held 
"White Supremacy Jubilees," in which paraded hundreds of red-shirted 
men bearing arms. Sympathizers in Virginia shipped 50,000 rounds of 
ammunition and a carload of firearms in the week preceding the elec- 
tion. 33 The gun-toting Red Shirts performed much the same tasks as the 
Klan — intimidation of whites and Blacks and, on more than a few 
occasions, murder of Blacks — and had a similar composition. One 
historian of the period described the Red Shirts as made up "in the main 
of respectable and well-to-do farmers, bankers, school teachers- and 
merchants — in many cases the best men in the community." 34 These 
pillars of community virtue, bearing arms, broke up political meetings, 
fired on citizens in their homes, kidnapped and whipped political 
opponents as they carried out God's work in the coastal plains of North 
Carolina. 

Days before the election, the Democrats held their final campaign rally 
at Goldsboro to which all who wanted to attend were granted free 
transportation by the state's railroads. They issued a proclamation on 
that October 28, declaring that the sanctity of white womanhood was 
endangered and property rendered less valuable, and that white men 

73 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

would rule North Carolina because they must. The Charlotte Observer, a 
newspaper partisan to the Democrats, later wrote: "... the businessmen 
of the State are largely responsible for the victory. Not before in years 
have the bank men, the millmen and the businessmen in general — the 
backbone of the property interests of the State — taken such sincere 
interest. They worked from start to finish and furthermore they spent 
large bits of money in behalf of the cause. . . . When Democratic rallies 
were held, mills and shops were shut down so that the operatives could 
attend the speakings. Indeed North Carolina is fast changing from an 
agricultural to a manufacturing state." 35 

The Democratic campaign was aimed at Wilmington in the first place, 
with its Fusion government including three Black aldermen out of ten, a 
Black county treasurer in New Hanover, a Black assistant sheriff, a Black 
coroner and a Black port collector. One of the city fathers and chairman 
of the city Democratic Party, a racist out of central casting named Alfred 
M. Waddell, had declared during the campaign, "We in Wilmington 
extend a Macedonian call to you to come over and help us. We will not 
live under these intolerable conditions. No society can stand it. We 
intend to change it, if we have to choke the current of Cape Fear River 
with Negro carcasses." 36 Waddell was a member of a Democratic 
committee known as the "Secret Nine," which drafted the "Declaration 
of White Independence" charting the course of Wilmington after the 
Democratic victory. Among its proclamations were that the undersigned 
would no longer be ruled by Blacks, "an inferior race, not anticipated by 
the U.S. Constitution"; that whites in Wilmington would no longer pay 
taxes levied by Blacks and Republicans; that whites were the most 
advanced group in society. Viewing Reconstruction democracy as a 
prospect about as pleasant to contemplate as hemophilia, the Secret Nine 
gave the Black Fusionist newspaper, The Wilmington Record, 24 hours 
to cease publication and its editor the same time to get out of town. 

On November 10, exactly half an hour after the warning time had 
expired, Waddell led bands of Red Shirts in a raid on the Wilmington 
Light Infantry Armory. The vigilantes armed themselves, proceeded to 
the office of the Record and burned it to the ground. From there they set 
out for Wilmington's Black community where they conducted a virtual 
pogrom. The most complete study of the Wilmington massacre sum- 
marized the events thusly: 

Streets were dotted with dead bodies, some of which were lying in the street 
until the day following the riot, others of which were discovered later under 
houses by their stench; colored men who passed through the streets had either 
to be guarded by one of the crowd or have a written permit giving them the 



74 



Two 



right to pass; little white boys searched Negroes and took from them every 
means of defense, and, if the Negroes resisted, they were shot down by armed 
white males who looked on with shotguns; rioters went from house to house 
looking for Negroes whom they considered offensive and killed them, and 
poured volleys into fleeing Negroes like sportsmen firing at rabbits in an open 
field; Negro churches were entered at the point of a cannon and searched for 
ammunition; and white ministers carried guns. 37 

When the carnage was over, the Cape Fear, true to Waddell's pledge, 
was choked with hundreds of Black bodies. Not one white man was 
arrested of course. Quite the contrary: Waddell and other Democratic 
leaders marched to the city hall in the wake of the riot, forced the 
Fusionists to resign, and appointed themselves to office. The News and 
Observer hailed the massacre as imperative to save the city from degrada- 
tion. The Wilmington Messenger praised the coup d'etat as an heroic act 
in liberating whites from Black tyranny. 

Few survivors of the Wilmington massacre were able to record their 
accounts of the brutality. One, the Rev. Charles S. Morris, left the city 
and moved to Boston. Still a refugee in 1899, he told a Boston audience: 

. . . One man, brave enough to fight against such odds would be hailed as a 
hero anywhere else, was given the privilege of running the gauntlet up a broad 
street, where he sank ankle deep in the sand, while crowds of men lined the 
sidewalks and riddled him with a pint of bullets as he ran bleeding past their 
doors; another Negro shot 20 times in the back as he scrambled empty-handed 
over a fence; thousands of women and children fleeing in terror from their 
humble homes in the darkness of the night, out under a gray and angry sky, 
from which falls a cold and bone-chilling rain, out to the dark and tangled 
ooze of the swamp amid the crawling things of night, fearing to light a fire, 
startled at every footstep, cowering, shivering, shuddering, trembling, braving 
in gloom and terror: half-clad and bare-footed mothers, with their babies 
wrapped only in a shawl, whimpering with cold and hunger at their icy 
breasts, crouched in terror from the vengeance of those who, in the name of 
civilization, and with the benediction of the ministers of the Prince of Peace, 
inaugurated the reformation of the city of Wilmington. . . . All this happened, 
not in Turkey, nor in Russia, nor in Spain, not in the gardens of Nero, nor in 
the dungeons of Torquemada, but within 300 miles of the White House, in the 
best state in the South, within a year of the 20th century, while the nation was 
on its knees thanking God for having enabled it to break the Spanish yoke 
from the neck of Cuba. This is our civilization. . . , 38 

The Wilmington massacre closed out the nineteenth century and set 
the tone for twentieth century life in North Carolina. 

75 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Ben arrived in Wilmington on the morning of February 1, 1971. He had 
just gone home for a family visit in Oxford from Elizabethtown when 
Rev. Templeton's call came. Events were pressing and he had to come 
down to Wilmington, Ben was told. He arrived in the port city a little 
after midnight and went directly to Rev. Templeton's home, next door to 
the Gregory Congregational Church. The minister explained to his guest 
that he had opened up the church to the students for their meetings 
because their cause was just, he felt, but being white, he really couldn't 
provide leadership to them in the struggle. He would be supportive but 
thought it best not to be in the forefront. Rev. Templeton wanted to 
know how long Ben could stay in Wilmington. Based on his recent 
experiences in Henderson, Warrenton and East Arcadia, Ben was con- 
vinced it wouldn't be necessary to stay for very long. He would meet with 
the students in the morning, ascertain the problem, try to head them in 
the right direction, and return to Oxford, to remain on call if new 
difficulties emerged. 

Early the next day, a few of the students came to Rev. Templeton's 
house. There had been no student organization, but an informal leader- 
ship had developed out of the student protests. Steve Mitchell, a high 
school senior, seemed to be the most articulate of this budding leader- 
ship, and he convened the meeting that morning. They decided to 
generalize their demands, to embrace all the Wilmington schools. The 
new demands included: a cessation of physical attacks by white teachers 
against Black students; recognition of Martin Luther King's birthday as 
a school holiday; establishment of Black studies programs; an end to the 
practice in some classes of making Black students sit in the back of the 
room; agreement that Blacks be allowed the same equipment in business 
courses as whites (white teachers expressed fear that Blacks would break 
the IBM typewriters or were unable to type correctly because "their 
fingers are too big.") 

The students at Rev. Templeton's house constituted themselves a 
committee to deliver the demands to the school board that same after- 
noon. They gave the board until noon the next day, Wednesday, to chew 
over that particular bone. To back up their demands, the students agreed 
that they would walk out of school at the sound of the lunch bells on 
Wednesday and head for the Gregory Congregational Church. Students 
from all of the city schools were notified of the plan, including those at 
J.T. Hoggart High School in the suburbs. Drivers at the Black bus 
company in Wilmington volunteered to pick up the Hoggart students 
and take them to the church to pray for the school board. 

76 



Two 

Exactly at noon, 400 Black students at New Hanover High walked off 
the school grounds and headed for the church. Over 300 of their mates at 
Williston Junior High joined in. Little first graders at the grammar 
schools put away their books and trooped into the streets. Folks on the 
street scratched their heads in wonderment. It appeared to be a fire drill, 
nice and orderly, but this wasn't possible, not a simultaneous drill for all 
the schools. About that time busloads of Hoggart students from out in 
the county began to arrive at the church. After the church rally, more 
than a thousand students marched on the board of education to press 
their demands. Police were there with riot equipment and paddy wagons 
but the school board was gone. The students agreed to continue their 
boycott of school until they received some satisfaction. 

A meeting was called for that night at Gregory Congregational. By 
now Holy War had been declared against Ben Chavis and Rev. Tem- 
pleton. Ben was dubbed an "outside agitator," an apparent miracle 
worker who had disrupted the schools within 36 hours of his arrival in 
Wilmington. City officials called Templeton to say he shouldn't allow the 
meeting. Less official callers bearing essentially the same message let the 
white minister know that his church would be blown up, his wife killed 
and himself run out of town if he continued to let the church serve as the 
boycott center. Rev. Leon White, state director of the Commission for 
Racial Justice, ordered Ben to return to Oxford. 

But the next morning Ben was awakened in Oxford by another phone 
call from Rev. White saying things had changed, fires had been set the 
night before in Wilmington, and the North Carolina Good Neighbor 
Council— statewide racial trouble shooters appointed by the governor — 
had asked White to let Ben return to the port city because he seemed to be 
the only one who could control the students. Wilmington is about 160 
miles southeast of Oxford, and Ben now drove the distance for the fourth 
time in less than two days. 

Wilmington had changed in the few hours of his absence. The Klan 
had brought in members from enclaves in Burgaw and Whiteville. Rev. 
Templeton was still receiving bomb threats and even the Good Neighbor 
Council was saying the threats were for real. The council welcomed Ben 
back to town, saying they hoped he would be able to keep things orderly. 
But the burden was on the school board to grant the students' demands, 
and on the authorities to keep the peace. 

Another meeting was called for the church that night, Thursday. 
Again the bomb threats came. The students decided that they would 
protect the church with their bodies by remaining inside, hostages to the 
potential violence of racist fanatics. Pickup trucks filled with whites 

77 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

wearing cowboy hats and packing guns arrived in town from Pender 
County and from across the South Carolina state line. 

Shortly after the meeting started at the church a volley of shots came 
through the window. The students crouched on the floor and the lights 
were cut. Ben asked that the lights be turned back on. He said that he was 
going to stay in the church that night and invited the students and their 
supporters to join him if they wished. The students decided to stay. Rev. 
Templeton went home to join his wife. By now Jim Grant had come in 
from Charlotte to offer assistance to Ben. Again Jim was to play the 
familiar role of "faculty advisor." 

Shots rang out in the community all night. For the most part they 
missed the church, fired as they were from speeding trucks. Some bullets 
went into nearby homes. Two people were wounded and were tended to 
by Mrs. Templeton, a registered nurse who had been fired by the city 
hospital earlier that day because of her husband's activities at the church. 

When dawn arrived Friday, Ben and the students learned that there 
had been sporadic gunfire that night in other parts of Wilmington. Every 
indication promised worse to come if the city did not act. Ben and the 
students went through the neighborhood organizing an impromptu 
march on City Hall to demand a curfew before madness completely 
engulfed Wilmington. Mayor Crowmonty, a direct descendant of the 
attorney general of the Confederacy, refused to meet with the students. 
The requested curfew was denied. 

As night approached so did the nightriders. Carloads of armed whites 
cruised Wilmington's Black community, testing its defenses. When its 
defenselessness became apparent, the whites became bolder, shooting at 
folks on the street from their speeding cars. A block away from the 
church, one man was felled by shots in the legs. After that the students set 
up roadblocks. Trash cans, benches, anything to block the streets, even 
pews from the church, were used to build barricades. By this time the 
community was moved to act in self-defense. Old hunting rifles were 
brought out of musty closets and cleaned. Inside the church the Black 
students were joined by some of their sympathetic white classmates. 
Other adults joined in, including Ann Sheppard, a white volunteer from 
the Good Neighbor Council and mother of three, and Molly Hicks, the 
Black chairperson of the parents' support group for the student boycott. 

A command post was set up and foot patrols with walkie-talkies cased 
the neighborhood around the church. More rounds of fire were shot, but 
what had been shotgun pellets the night before were more often now high 
caliber bullets. Some "brothers" from Fort Bragg came down to 
Wilmington to help defend the community. Ben sent word from the 

78 



Two 

church that everybody was to use the utmost caution and care that the 
community not be harmed. When someone argued for burning, Ben 
challenged the provocation of the suggestion. These were Black homes 
surrounding this Black church; even if a business was white-owned, fire 
knew no discretion when it spread. 

Night fell, and with it any hesitation of the Klan to fire on the Black 
community. Nearly 5,000 rounds of ammunition were fired that Friday 
evening. Seventy people in and around the Gregory Church were hit, 
among them Marvin Patrick, one of the leading student activists. The 
receiving hospital treated and released whites that evening, but any Black 
who showed up with a gunshot wound was arrested for rioting. 

Ben recalled later, "I was really shocked to see people battling like that. 
At that point, I just didn't understand the depths of feelings involved. I 
didn't know much about the history of Wilmington. 1 had heard some- 
thing about 1898 but I didn't know it was as deeply ingrained as it 
apparently was. You had some folks that actually thought that just 
because the Black students marched and because they were having some 
meetings, that they were going to pay back the white people for what 
happened in 1898. And so to keep the Blacks from paying them back, 
they were going to wipe out the Black community again. And even with 
all this shooting the mayor refused to set a curfew. People could still go 
downtown, buy a gun and ammunition, come shooting into the commu- 
nity, and go back downtown again." 

Meanwhile, huddled inside the church, were a couple of hundred 
students, mainly teenagers, dozens only 10 or 11 years old. Two of the 
influential elders of the church hastily called a meeting of the church 
board to evict the students and ask for police protection of the church. 
That such protection had previously been denied failed to impress the 
two men. The young people left the church, but other adults in the 
congregation, especially those from the neighborhood, prevailed upon 
the trustees for a reconsideration of their decision. They were concerned 
about Rev. Templeton, now without protection, as well as the students 
and the church itself. The students were invited back. 

This was now Saturday night. Jim Grant later reported for the 
Southern Patriot: "Early that evening, six carloads of whites, with guns 
prominently displayed, drove through the police barricades and headed 
toward the church. The first truck stopped right in front of the guards' 
barricade and started shooting. A Black minister who was a little slow 
about taking cover was hit, but he managed to crawl out of the line of fire. 
The [community] guards [of the church] returned the fire and the 
motorcade sped off. The minister was able to drive for medical help and 

79 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

has since recovered. Later that night the police tried to lay down a cover 
of fire behind which the Klansmen would rush the church." Inside 
Gregory Congregational, Ben was taking care of the students when he 
was hit in the back by three shotgun pellets. 

All regular television programming in Wilmington was canceled for 
live newscasts about the "Holy Wilmington Insurrection" interspersed 
by calls for "law and order" by the city authorities. The grass was clearly 
getting ahead of the gardener. 

While Ben was resting in Rev. Templeton's living room and Jim was in 
the church basement checking on remaining supplies, someone ran into 
the church to announce that Mike's Grocery was on fire. Mike's Grocery 
was a white-owned store in the neighborhood which had caught on fire 
the past two nights in a row. Rumor among the neighbors had it that 
Mike was taking advantage of the gunfire to collect insurance money on 
a store that was sure to be put out of business by a boycott anyway. 

Next door to the grocery on either side were family houses. Some of 
the people were still asleep that night, unaware of the fire next door and 
their imminent danger. Others, still awake, were determined not to leave 
their homes for fear of being hit by vigilante bullets. Ben asked for 
volunteers from among those inside the church and let them out into the 
street to bring the neighbors back to the church for their protection and, 
if possible, to save their furniture from the fire. One of Ben's volunteers, 
Steve Mitchell, moved up the street to pull a nearby fire alarm. Police, 
waiting across the street in darkness, shot him down and dragged him 50 
feet to a police car. Later word came that Steve was dead, although 
witnesses state that he was alive before being dragged into the car. 

When the community heard the television announcement of Steve 
Mitchell's death, hell just broke loose. The distinction between the Klan 
and the police was thereafter eliminated in the minds of the Black 
community surrounding Gregory Congregational Church. When some 
police were shot at, the television reported the authorities downtown 
deputized white "volunteers." Everybody was now the law, including the 
Klan and the Rights of White People. Still the city refused to impose a 
curfew. 

By now Governor Bob Scott ordered the elite riot squad of the North 
Carolina Highway Patrol into Wilmington. In the wee morning hours, 
Rev. Templeton was awakened by a call from the highway patrol 
commander of the riot squad, William Guy, who asked to speak with 
Ben. Guy said that the patrol was in Wilmington to protect the citizenry, 
that he understood that "you people" were complaining about some folks 
shooting at the church, that the government had sent in the patrol to stop 

80 



Two 

the violence, that he was sending his men into the church to protect the 
young people inside, that he wanted Ben to order his men not to fire at the 
patrolmen. 

Ben explained that he had no men, that he was lying on the floor along 
with everyone else, that he had no control over what was breaking 
outside, that he would step outside the church to talk with Guy. When 
Ben opened the door of Rev. Templeton's house, a .357 magnum bullet, 
pride of the highway patrol, whizzed past his head and tore a plank off 
the minister's house. With splendid protection like this, negotiations 
broke off. 

Sunday morning came in with church bells ringing and the staccato of 
gunfire providing counterpoint. Ben remained inside the Templeton 
home. About 10 o'clock, a white man in a pickup truck drove up to the 
barricades outside the church, pulled out his gun and started to fire into 
the building. He never made it. One of Templeton's neighbors came in 
the house to tell Ben and the minister and his wife that this white man was 
laying outside in the gutter, his blood running down the sidewalk. Again, 
Ben left the church area to call for an ambulance, explaining that this 
time it was a white man that was dying. The ambulance never came but 
eventually two Wilmington police pulled up, took the man, later identi- 
fied as a Harvey Cumber, and placed him in the back seat of their squad 
car. The police reported that Cumber had a gun with a spent shell in his 
hand at the time he was shot. But when the news was announced on 
television 90 minutes later, it was reported that the second fatality of the 
Wilmington race riots started by Blacks was a white motorist on his way 
to church, murdered by Black snipers. 

News of Cumber's death brought dozens of cars and trucks with armed 
whites into Wilmington ghettos. The Gregory Church was no longer the 
target. Any house inhabited by Blacks was fired on indiscriminately. Any 
Black person on the streets of Wilmington was fair game. Chief William- 
son of the Wilmington police acknowledged that he had lost control of 
the situation. His orders by now had proved useless. Williamson called 
upon Governor Scott to send in the National Guard. 

It took some time for the Guard's artillery division to get its tanks into 
Wilmington. Some guardsmen came by dusk but the main contingents 
didn't arrive until after midnight, Monday morning. The Adjutant 
General of the Guard provided a press bus for CBS and NBC, Time, 
Newsweek and the rest of the national press coming in from Washington 
and Atlanta. A huge searchlight and infrared gun-scopes were provided 
to the newsmen to watch the Guard's operation. Live television cameras 
showed North Carolina viewers the National Guard sporting M16s 

81 



Nothing Could Be Finer 



creeping up the sidewalks toward the church, while armored personnel 
carriers and tanks bearing .50 caliber machine-guns rolled up to the 
doors. The assault troops pulled out their grenades, readied their tear gas 
cannisters, and kicked down the doors of a little Black church in 
Wilmington. Inside they found — nobody. 

Ben Chavis and the students watched the scene on television in 
Raleigh. They of course also heard that the Guard was coming to town 
and, based on the treatment they had received from the Wilmington 
police and the highway patrol, knew they might be killed. Especially after 
a white man had been killed. So under cover of darkness, they had 
evacuated the church, Rev. Templeton's house, and the homes of 30 
families in the area and left Wilmington, passing the Guard as it rolled 
into the city. 

The National Guard and Governor Scott were incensed, having staged 
a million-dollar live television show, with the national press on hand, all 
for naught. They responded by breaking down the doors of Black homes, 
without search warrants. The community was sealed off, highways were 
blocked, cars stopped and searched, and Black housing projects searched 
door to door. For the next week Wilmington's Black community lived 
under virtual martial law. 



1 i orth Carolina has respect for the soldier boy," says a former 
military reporter for the Raleigh News and Observer. "This is a whole 
'nother country. With more volunteers in the Civil War than any other 
southern state, it suffered a military defeat a hundred years ago. But if 
you go out with the national guard today it seems like going out with old 
Joe Johnson's troops a century ago. All these good old country boys 
spitting tobacco and shooting the whiskers off a cat." 39 

This is one state that better have respect for the "soldier boy." There 
are 600,000 veterans in a total population of 5 million. Of those, 142,000 
are Vietnam vets. Veterans and their dependants are 2.5 million North 
Carolinians, fully half of the state. 40 

North Carolina is far from the top of the list in "defense industries," 
but is just about number one in direct military presence. It contains the 
largest military base in the United States at Fort Bragg; the largest coast 
guard base in the world at Elizabeth City, with 10,000 coast guardsmen 
and civilian employees; and nearly one third of all U.S. marines are based 
at Camp Lejeune, the Cherry Point marine air station and the New River 
marine air station. Pope and Johnson air force bases add another 11,000 




82 



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men in uniform. On the northern shore of Albermarle Sound sits the 
Harvey Point Defense Testing Activity, a CIA facility for training in 
sabotage and demolition. According to The News and Observer (August 
3, 1975) there are no published figures for the number of CIA "soldiers" 
on this secret base. What can be counted adds up to nearly 90,000 
servicemen and another 200,000 civilian personnel, military dependents 
and retirees gathered together in the eastern third of the state. That's 
more people than the combined populations of Winston-Salem and 
Raleigh. Over $ 1 .4 billion spent each year by military personnel and their 
families in the shops and country stores of eastern North Carolina has a 
powerful impact. 41 If they ain't just whistlin' Dixie, it's because the 
Marine Corps Hymn is higher on the charts these days. 

Camp Lejeune, brags Commanding General R.D. Bohn, is "one of the 
largest 'industries'" in the state and the "greatest single contributor" to 
the economy of eastern North Carolina. 42 Built in 1941, the reservation 
covers 170 square miles, and contains two golf courses, some 6,000 
buildings and facilities for a city of 60,000 people. Lejeune's population 
alone spends about $23 million a year on North Carolina goods and 
services. 

The political influence of the marines in this part of the state is at least 
as important as the economic clout. This was the launching base for the 
1958 invasion of Lebanon, ordered by President Eisenhower; the 1962 
Cuban missile crisis, directed by President Kennedy; the "incursion" into 
Santo Domingo, under President Johnson. During 1971 and 1972, 
according to the official base history, "units were engaged in training 
exercises in the Mojave Desert, across the Appalachian ranges, along 
cold rocky Maine beaches as well as in the Caribbean." 

From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Jacksonville, N.C., the 
marines of Camp Lejeune make their presence known. Jacksonville, the 
town adjacent to the base, is said to have been a favorite hideout of 
buccaneers like Henry Morgan and Blackbeard. Now, "The City on the 
Go," as the Greater Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce would have it, is 
the favorite hangout of the 2nd Marine Division. The town did well by 
the Vietnam War: in the decade 1963-72 Jacksonville grew 240 percent 43 
In the last five of those years, more than 3,000 marines retired in the 
county. 

Of the marines on base, more than 3,000 are originally from in-state. 
As one marine officer says, "Camp Lejeune is North Carolina." 44 A 
civilian-military council has been organized to bind more tightly the ties 
between town and base. The council includes generals and Onslow 
County Chamber of Commerce leaders, the mayor of Jacksonville and 

83 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

assorted gentry of civic mind. Off-duty marines volunteer for community 
activities— putting roofs on nursing homes, plastering shacks, and such, 
under names like Operation Concern. A Lejeune spokesman claims that 
the marines, subject as they are to federal law, are a force for civil rights in 
backwater North Carolina. "Seventy-nine-year-old Aunt Janie won't 
change, but the New South will," he argues. But the same officer recalls 
the summer of 1969 when Black and Chicano marines fought white 
marines off base. Two were killed. 

At that point a career marine named Leroy Gibson became fed up and 
left the corps to form the Rights of White People organization (ROWP). 
The ROWP was nothing if not active. A Jacksonville anti-war bookstore 
called United We Stand was bombed by ROWP terrorists. Marines were 
recruited by Gibson to break strikes. Civil rights demonstrations were 
broken up by force, synagogues and newspapers bombed, Black leaders 
shot at and threatened. The ROWP organized armed patrols of Black 
and white communities. Leroy Gibson, who lights up any room he leaves, 
claimed the existence of seven or eight cells at Camp Lejeune in the early 
1970s. A Lejeune spokesman acknowledged that after 20 years in the 
corps, "there are officers who served with him and who still maintain 
their friendship." 45 

If North Carolina is New South, Fort Bragg is New Army. Public 
relations plumage covers the old basics and masks the new. Officers are 
trained to deal with the public. Community services, human relations, 
equal opportunity, civic action — these are the new tasks of Fort Bragg, to 
read the publicity brochures. The base, whose population makes it the 
second largest city in the state after Charlotte, was named for Braxton 
Bragg, a North Carolina general in the Confederate Army. Here is 
housed the XVIII Airborne Corps with its attached units, including the 
82nd Airborne. Bragg is also home base for the Green Berets, and the 
Psychological Warfare Center, renamed the JFK Center for Military 
Assistance by some enterprising huckster. 

The 82nd Airborne, nicknamed the "All Americans," not only had 
successful engagements in Santo Domingo and Saigon, according to 
official army propaganda, but "on several occasions . . . sent forces on 
Civil Disturbance missions to various cities within the United States." 
Division training programs take place in "an adventure-filled at- 
mosphere" — deployments to Puerto Rico, Panama, Texas, Kentucky, 
Georgia and Alabama; also in "Greece, Turkey, Korea and on the North 
Carolina coast." 46 

The 503rd Military Police Battalion, based at Bragg, "continues to 
serve in the same tradition established in such places as the beaches of 

84 



Two 

Normandy, the Dominican Republic and, more recently, our nation's 
capital and Miami Beach." Truly All Americans, the 16th Military Police 
Group is stationed near corps headquarters but one never needs travel 
far: "A look in your rear-view mirror will usually reveal the presence of 
one or two of the finest military policemen anywhere." 47 

John D. Granger, commander of the 503rd MPs, is a man of vision, 
believing as he does that a concerted military effort could make an 
anachronism of social work agencies. The Pentagon "can make a more 
rapid and profound impact on our society than any other single institu- 
tion," Granger argues. "If each member of the department were to spend 
an hour a month on a socially productive project, this would exceed the 
total efforts that all volunteer welfare agencies provide in a year." 48 Just 
such thinking prompted Lt. Gen. John J. Tolson, then CO at Bragg, to 
pioneer the Domestic Action programs in 1970. Tolson, a man with an 
ear for current trends, called the programs "Nation-building." 

Hoke County, adjoining the base on the west, is one of the 100 poorest 
counties in the United States, with severe economic and medical prob- 
lems. So Ft. Bragg Domestic Action Teams updated county medical 
records, conducted tests for tuberculosis and provided medical corpsmen 
to help operate the county clinic. Temporary water mains were installed, 
children's playgrounds constructed. At the same time, Green Berets were 
sent to Anson County "to improve the ability of military assistance 
personnel to work with civilians" in clearing brush, learning first aid, 
training in "public safety," and otherwise meeting public needs. An 
athletic field was built for East Bladen High School in Elizabethtown. At 
the Western Correctional Center, a high-rise prison, Special Forces 
troops came to train select groups of inmates. Apparently the soldiers 
made an impression. According to Granger, "Most of the prisoners now 
spit-shine their shoes to emulate a glittering Green Beret look. Some have 
even converted prison-brown to Army-black." 

The North Carolina Department of Human Resources has thrown its 
weight behind Domestic Action. Together with local corporations to 
help foot the bill, the state now organizes week-long encampments at 
Fort Bragg for North Carolina children to experience the hidden joys 
and spiritual rewards of military life. Domestic Action programs have 
proven so successful to their designers that they have now been effected 
in Salinas, California, Orangeburg, South Carolina, and a score of other 
communities from sea to shining sea. No ghosts of George Custer past 
are these soldiers as they check teeth on Montana's Northern Cheyenne 
Reservation or instruct Florida Seminoles in methods of law enforce- 
ment. 



85 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Domestic Action was to become the army's answer to the war on 
poverty. Who better to conduct a war, no matter the enemy, the army 
might argue. Besides, the soldier, subject to military discipline, is a far 
more dependable representative of Old Glory to the poor and powerless 
photos of soldiers stoned on heroin with garlands of human ears strung 
than a civilian VISTA volunteer who, likely as not, was a peace-creep 
trying to avoid military service in the first place. 

Domestic Action was an idea whose time had come at just the right 
moment for the Nixon Administration, which had set about the task of 
dismantling the Office of Economic Opportunity. With its vaccination 
programs and building playgrounds for impoverished children, Domes- 
tic Action would have important residual effects. It could win the hearts 
and minds of those who may have become disaffected at the daily news of 
Vietnamese being thrown to their deaths from helicopters, and news 
photos of soldiers stoned on heroin with garlands of human ears strung 
on their jeeps. 

North Carolina is hardly unique in its hiring of retired military 
personnel — a colonel to be Charlotte city engineer, another to head up a 
branch of the state corrections department, for example. But the state 
may have set a precedent when it hired General Tolson, the commander 
of Fort Bragg and resident genius of Domestic Action, to become 
secretary of the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans 
Affairs (DMVA). General Tolson, a bear of a man with the sort of 
enthusiasm one associates with the chairman of a save-our-parks com- 
mittee, says, "We make no distinction between the military and the 
community at large. You can't separate the two." 49 

One of the general's responsibilities in his new position was that most 
direct of military-civilian ties, the National Guard. In North Carolina, 
the Guard has 12,000 troops. General Tolson, bearing a disarming 
personality and grim statistics, boosted the Black and Indian composi- 
tion of the Guard to more than 6 percent. Five years before, 99 percent of 
the Guard was white. These were the troops that were sent in to quell 
"civic disturbances" that grew out of racist attacks on Black communities 
in the early 1970s. Judge John Walker of Wilmington, which saw the 
state's worst violence of those years, says he received letters from 
Guardsmen in nearby Blyden and Pender counties. "They have 
organized armed citizens' committees, patrolling against the few known 
criminal revolutionists. I don't blame them," says Judge Walker. "The 
Guardsmen are ordinary American citizens — farmboys, workers, law- 
yers. They are supposed to defend their families." 50 (During Governor 
Robert Scott's administration, 1969-73, the Guard was called to state 



86 



Two 

service 28 times; nine times for "civil disorders"; once for a student 
demonstration; 12 for missing person searches, and six times for ice 
storms and hurricanes. In those same years, the number of Black 
Guardsmen increased from 76 to 233 out of 12,000, or from half of one 
percent to almost two percent.) 

General Tolson's DMVA also included Veterans Administration, the 
Civil Air Patrol, the Adjutant General's office, and the Division of Civil 
Preparedness. This latter aspect of the general's work used to be called 
"civil defense" but was switched "to change the public image." The 
division prepares plans for nuclear attack or other man-made and 
natural disasters. DMVA's office is located in the sub-basement of the 
state administration building. This was the governor's "nerve center" in 
times of disaster, complete with its own power plant, water supply, 
sleeping and cooking facilities, and emergency food supply. Called the 
Emergency Operating Center, General Tolson occupied the space in lieu 
of thermonuclear fall-out over Raleigh. The DMVA still has its shelters 
and fall-out testing. The North Carolina Department of Transportation 
offers a 40-hour course of instruction for radiological treatment. In local 
communities, county governments bring students to the fairgrounds to 
simulate bombing casualties. Fort Bragg lends its helping hand in this 
effort. 

The state legislature gave General Tolson's DMVA new powers in 
early 1974 when it added to his domain the implementation of state 
energy politics. With coordination of the National Guard, civil defense, 
and energy policy under his command, General Tolson was the quintes- 
sence of his own view that there is no distinction between soldier and 
civilian. Two months before the legislature acted, the 82nd Airborne at 
Fort Bragg was put on riot control training and alert, planning for 
martial law. Operation Garden Plot was in effect as a caution against 
gasoline riots during the weeks of the international fuel crisis. 

Operation Garden Plot was nurtured in 1967 as a Department of Army 
contingency plan for imposing martial law. It called for centralized army 
coordination with local and state government and police authorities in 
case of civil disorders. While the Pentagon denies that Garden Plot 
contained provisions for rounding up dissident civilians, one officer said 
that "it would be unlikely that such plans would have been committed to 
writing." Garden Plot exercises are known to have been carried out in 
part at Kent State University in 1971, resulting in at least four student 
deaths, and at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Reserva- 
tion in 1973. Apparently other Garden Plot exercises were held in the late 
1960s somewhere in California. For at a planning conference in anticipa- 

87 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

tion of the action, Governor Ronald Reagan hailed the operation: 
"Garden Plot is in line with the 6,000-year history of man pushing the 
jungle back, creating a clearing where men can live in peace and go about 
their business with some measure of safety. Of late, the jungle has been 
creeping in again a little closer to our boundaries/' Inasmuch as "civil 
rights movements" head the list of "dissident elements" that Garden Plot 
seeks to quell, Reagan's references to the jungle leave little room for 
misinterpretation. Those in his audience included 500 military men, 
police officials and corporate executives from Boeing, Sylvania, Bank of 
America, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph, Pacific Gas and Electric, and 
Standard Oil of California. The governor jocularly said that if his 
enemies saw him there they would see it as proof he "was planning a 
military takeover." 51 

In 1974 Garden Plot was being implemented for North Carolina 
motorists, under the gaze of fatherly General Tolson. 



When the 600 flak-jacketed National Guardsmen took the Gregory 
Congregational Church on that Sabbath in February 1971 and finally 
imposed a curfew, Reverend and Mrs. Templeton were forced to flee 
Wilmington. Later at a meeting of the state civil rights commission the 
minister would testify that over 50 shots were fired into his house and 
church in the four days of "rebellion." The local authorities claimed they 
could find no evidence of such shots, despite the obvious bullet holes that 
pockmarked the church walls. One evening during the siege, a white man 
shot into the Templeton home after the minister refused to open the door 
at 3:30 a.m. "so they could talk." When Rev. Templeton asked the police 
to come they refused. They showed up instead four hours later because, 
as one policeman explained, "We heard that Rev. Templeton had been 
killed and we came over to identify the body." Finding the minister alive, 
the cops photographed and fingerprinted him in order "to be able to 
identify the body" at a future date. Police made no effort to locate the 
nightriders nor protect this house of worship and this man of the cloth. 
The handwriting was clearly stained on the broken glass windows of 
Gregory Church. 

The following Thursday was designated Black Thursday by Ben 
Chavis at a Raleigh press conference. High school students from 
throughout North Carolina were asked to come to Wilmington that day 
for the funeral of Steve Mitchell. City officials obtained an injunction to 
prevent the funeral from being held at the Gregory Church. As nearly 

88 



Two 

3,000 mourners gathered for the funeral march, another nearby church 
opened its doors for the ceremony. The violence and horror of the past 
week had frightened most of the city's God-fearing church community. 
But the young Black people were determined that Steve Mitchell's death 
not be in vain. 

They asked Ben to remain on in Wilmington and he agreed. They 
formed an organization to continue the struggle, Black Youth Builds a 
Black Community (BYBBC), and elected a president, Roderick Kirby. 
The New Hanover Board of Education responded by initiating a federal 
injunction, naming as defendants Rev. Templeton, the Commission for 
Racial Justice, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to 
prohibit them helping to organize the school boycott. 

By now Ben had become the Reverend Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. After 
completing an 18-month In-Service Ministerial Training Program under 
the sponsorship of the Commission for Racial Justice, he was ordained a 
Christian minister of the Black Christian Pan Africanist Church at a 
ceremony conducted by clergy of the United Church of Christ in New 
York. The church was part of a denomination founded in 1967 by the 
UCCs Rev. Albert Cleage, Jr. of Detroit. The ordination was part of a 
logical development for Ben. His father had been lay reader and senior 
warden in an Episcopal church in Oxford. Frequently without a minister, 
the church often asked Ben Sr. to serve as its pastor. Every Sunday for 20 
years, Ben Jr. carried the cross and lighted the candles. During his 
student years in Charlotte, when he became a part-time organizer for the 
Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Ben found himself every 
evening speaking on civil rights issues in rural churches, large and small, 
througout the state. Years later, Ben would write to a friend, "It was in, 
through, and by the Church, that I was learning how to organize on the 
community grass-roots level. At this time, I became a devoted follower of 
Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. The effective and creative non-violent role the 
church was playing to bring about social change impressed me to the 
point that I knew that sooner or later I would devote my life to the church 
and struggle for justice and humanity." After the Oxford struggle when 
he became field organizer for the Commission for Racial Justice and 
entered its In-Service Ministerial Training Program, Ben joined the Oak 
Level United Church of Christ in Henderson. The Oak Level Church was 
pastored by Leon White, Ben's co-worker, who gave his church over to 
serve as a center for organizing the Henderson students and parents 
movement. Now, having survived the assault on the Gregory Congrega- 
tional Church in Wilmington, Ben felt that Black Christian nationalism 
was at its peak in terms of new directed goals for the church in the Black 

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Nothing Could Be Finer 

community. While the Black Christian Pan Africanist Church did not 
meet every traditional requirement of the more orthodox, Black commu- 
nities had their own traditions which harkened back to slavery, in which 
they recognized their spiritual leadership in a style different from the 
seminary training imported from Europe, to which whites had access and 
Black slaves did not. In an article for the magazine Christianity and 
Crisis, Robert Maurer would write about Ben's father serving as minister 
in the Oxford church although not actually ordained to do so: "The 
requirements of the Spirit took precedent over the strictures of the Law. 
In his son's case as well, the requirements of the Spirit have been 
paramount and, at times, because of his keen sense of justice, set squarely 
against the law." 

Now back in North Carolina after his ordination ceremony, the 
Reverend Chavis had no church of his own. To supplement his income 
from the Commission, Ben reopened the Soul Kitchen in Oxford and 
commuted the 160 miles back and forth to Wilmington. One night in 
March, a month after the siege of the Gregory Church, Ben was working 
in the Kitchen when he received a call from Leon White of the Commis- 
sion for Racial Justice. Rev. White explained that he had just been called 
by Molly Hicks, one of the key adult supporters of the Wilmington 
school boycott. A shooting had just occurred at her house. There was a 
rumor that a white man came up to the Hicks home, knocked at the door, 
and when Clifton Eugene Wright, a teenage friend of Molly's daughter 
Leatrice, opened the door, the man blew young Wright's head off with a 
shotgun. Ben agreed to go to Wilmington in the morning. But Molly 
Hicks called him and said she was being grilled by the police and needed 
legal help immediately. Ben called attorney James Ferguson in Charlotte 
who agreed to advise Mrs. Hicks. For the next year Molly and Leatrice 
Hicks were targeted by the Wilmington police for harassment. 

The assault on the Gregory Church and the shooting of Clifton Wright 
were only the beginning of a year of bloodletting in Wilmington. 
Violence wracked the schools and in March both high schools were 
closed down. Armed bands from the Rights of White People began to 
patrol the streets in cars again. The reigning mood of racist revanchism 
was expressed by District Court Judge John Walker who, referring to 
Black Wilmington students, declared, "We should have sent in Lieuten- 
ant Calley to clean them up." In May a Black woman, Carrie Lee 
Johnson, was shot in both legs by whites in a moving car. A Black soldier 
on leave, A. D. Wright, was shot from ambush that same month. Two 
white policemen beat up a Black man, Willie Powell, on the street, 
sending him to a hospital with eye damage and a concussion. Powell was 

90 



Two 



sentenced to four months imprisonment for resisting arrest; the police 
were found not guilty of assault. 

Another young Black man on his way home from school was shot in 
the back by a policeman, causing him to be paralyzed from the waist 
down. The cop had been called to the scene by a middle-aged white 
woman who reported a "white peeping Tom." Nevertheless the police- 
man shot the first Black man he saw. The victim, who was on probation 
from prison, was sent back to prison for violating parole, even though no 
indictment was ever handed down against him. The policeman was not 
even subjected to departmental discipline. 

At a fund-raising party to finance a drug-abuse program, the middle- 
aged Black hostess was grabbed and hit by police several times for 
protesting harassment of departing guests. As the woman was dragged to 
a police van, her clothes were partially torn off. Two young people at the 
party protested the beating and they in turn were maced, beaten and 
arrested. The two youths and the hostess were charged with disturbing 
the peace, resisting arrest, and assault on police. 

A Commission for Racial Justice hearing on Wilmington also re- 
ported the following incident: "While attending a football game, a Black 
youth leader observed an eight-year-old being chased by a group of 15-18 
white youths. After he had successfully intervened in this fray to prevent 
physical harm to the youth, two police officers grabbed the eight-year- 
old. While grabbing the eight-year-old, the Black youth leader was 
knocked aside. When the youth leader protested this treatment, he was 
shoved by one of the police officers. During this time, six other officers 
arrived. Upon their arrival they joined the first policeman who had 
continued to beat on the youth leader. The youth leader was arrested and 
convicted of 'assault on a policeman' despite testimony from eight 
witnesses that the youth leader was only attempting to defend himself. 
The youth leader was found guilty in District Court and sentenced to 12 
months." 

Meanwhile Ben and the BYBBC found a building on Castle Street in 
the center of the Black community and moved in, with some help from 
the Commission for Racial Justice. They painted the building black. Ben 
formed a church, the African Congregation of the Black Messiah, which 
was affiliated to other Temples of the Black Messiah in Detroit, New 
York and Washington, D.C. Wilmington's Temple of the Black Messiah 
also occupied the Black House. Roderick Kirby, the leader of the 
BYBBC, changed his name to Kojo Natambu and became Ben's assistant 
pastor at the Temple. 

The Rights of White People announced that it was going to seek a 

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Nothing Could Be Finer 

military victory over the Black community. ROWP kingfish Leroy 
Gibson challenged Rev. Chavis to meet him in a field outside of 
Wilmington to "fight to the death." Gibson, a sort of permanent loose 
part, declared: "If necessary, we'll eliminate the Black race. What are we 
supposed to do while these animals run loose in the streets? They'll either 
abide by the law or we'll wipe them out." Such a declaration was the 
equivalent of shouting "fire" in a crowded ghetto. 

Gibson's next step was to move ROWP headquarters into the Black 
community on the same block as the Temple of the Black Messiah, set up 
military command posts in front and on top of his building, raise the 
Confederate flag, and conduct martial exercises with loaded weapons in 
the street. While the ROWP infested the block, members of the Temple 
were being busted for jaywalking and loitering. Legal costs sapped the 
church of its meager funds. On Sundays church members were harassed 
by ROWP "soldiers" and on two occasions shots were fired into the 
Temple during services. 

One morning after conducting services, Rev. Chavis left the Temple in 
his mother's car. He was riding in the back seat with two companions; 
three others were in the front seat. As they headed down the street a 
station wagon full of white men pulled up beside Ben's car. One of the 
men in the back seat drew out a snub-nosed pistol and aimed it at Ben. All 
of his security men hit the floor, leaving him exposed. "I jumped out of 
the car," Ben remembers. "I wanted to knock the gun out of the guy's 
hand. I wasn't going to let him shoot me just like that. But when I jumped 
out of the car they drove off. We gave chase, and although we couldn't 
catch them we got close enough to get their license number. We went 
downtown to the police department and reported the incident and the 
license number but no arrests were ever made." (A year later during the 
trial of the Wilmington 10 the same station wagon was parked each day at 
the Burgaw courthouse in Pender County.) 

On August 31 a delegation of whites, led by G.D. Gross, Grand 
Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan, met with Wilmington school superinten- 
dent Heywood Bellamy in a last-minute effort to postpone the federal 
court decision to desegregate the city schools. Bellamy received them 
with cordiality but explained that his hands were tied, nothing more 
could be done. That night 19 school buses were destroyed by fire. Two 
hours later the Klan burned a cross in the yard of the Temple of the Black 
Messiah. 

Police repression of the Temple and the BYBBC continued in concert 
with the vigilante assaults. In October, Kojo Natambu was arrested in 
one of the local schools when he tried to prevent 6 policemen from 

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Two 

beating up a 10-year-old Black student. The police turned their attack on 
Kojo and fractured his skull. Kojo was arrested for assaulting the 
officers, convicted and sentenced to 4-6 months in prison. 

Leroy Gibson addressed a ROWP rally of 400 armed men in Hugh 
McRae Park on October 3. On display were numerous sawed-off 
shotguns, pump-guns and rifles. He declared that the ROWP was going 
after Ben and Kojo and their followers and would "hunt them down like 
rabbits." After the rally, 50 ROWP members approached the police 
department to volunteer their services. When the police told them to go 
home, the vigilantes went into the Black community and started shooting 
into homes. Police Chief H. E. Williamson was also offered 500 Klan 
members by Grand Cyclops Gross but Williamson said their help was not 
needed at present. The following day, county officials put through an 
emergency order banning citizens from moving about with firearms for 
the next week. 

The evening of October 6 Rev. Chavis was driving to the Hillcrest 
Apartments where Kojo lived. The building had recently been sprayed 
with bullet holes by the ROWP and a police blockade was still posted 
outside. When Ben pulled up, a policeman stepped forward with his riot 
shotgun. The officer knew it was Ben whom he had stopped and asked 
him for his license. Ben showed his wallet but when the policeman asked 
for his car registration, he was told it was in the trunk. The cop ordered 
Ben to stay in the car and called downtown for instructions. Over the 
radio came the order, "Bring him in." Ben was arrested for operating an 
unregistered vehicle. 

On the ride downtown Ben sat handcuffed in the back of the police car. 
The officer in front clicked his shotgun, put a shell in the chamber and 
leaned it in Ben's direction in back. During one sharp turn the gun fell to 
the floor but failed to discharge. At the stationhouse Ben was booked and 
allowed to call attorney James Ferguson in Charlotte. Bail was set at 
$350. Ben could have gone the $35 bond but refused and stayed in jail 
instead. That night and the next demonstrators outside the jailhouse 
protested. After three days Ben was brought before the court. He told the 
judge about his registration card in the trunk of the car, but the judge 
refused to listen and found Ben guilty. His car was impounded and he 
had to go to Raleigh to retrieve it. When he picked up his car the trunk 
was empty. While in Raleigh Ben went to the Department of Motor 
Vehicles for a duplicate registration card. He returned to Wilmington, 
card in hand, and the judge reversed the verdict to "not guilty." 

Wilmington fell quiet for the next month but on November 10, the 
anniversary of the 1898 massacre, a 17-year-old Black girl at Hoggard 

93 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

High suffered head injuries when she was hit with a chair thrown by a 
white student. A melee of 200 students ensued. The Hoggard principal 
called sheriffs deputies who moved in and beat and maced the Black 
students. Several were arrested but no whites were apprehended. 

The ROWP called another meeting at Hugh McRae Park for Novem- 
ber 12 but the county declared another state of emergency, banning 
transportation of firearms into the city and preventing use of public 
parks during evening hours. The ROWP moved its rally to a city park to 
elude the county ruling. Leroy Gibson led an armed motorcade to police 
headquarters to demand Chief Williamson's resignation for being "too 
soft" on Ben Chavis. Three days later the ROWP violated the parks 
curfew. Forty ROWP "soldiers" were arrested but most were released on 
their own recognizance. ROWP supporters held a demonstration at city 
jail protesting the arrests. Cars with armed whites continued to patrol the 
Black community, unhindered by the police. (Only 10 days before, two 
young Black men standing watch in front of the Temple of the Black 
Messiah were arrested for "armed terror of the populace," a law on the 
North Carolina statute books for nearly a century.) Gibson and the 
ROWP continued to pressure Williamson to jail Ben Chavis or else they 
would make a "citizen's arrest." 

On December 17, 1971, the police issued warrants for the arrest of Ben 
Chavis, Molly Hicks, her daughter Leatrice, and a young friend Jerome 
McClain. They were charged with "accessory after the fact of murder," in 
connection with the shooting of Clifton Eugene Wright at the Hicks 
home nine months earlier. 



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What's a tough guy? A guy with an edge — a bankroll 
in his pocket, a stripe on his sleeve, a rock in his hand, a 
badge on his shirt — that's an edge. 

Orson Welles in Lady from Shanghai 

There are people in our society who should be separ- 
ated and discarded. 

Spiro Agnew 



I 



F 

X our decades ago, in 1936, the famed defense attorney Clarence 
Darrow wrote about the art of picking a jury: 

When court opens, the bailiff intones some voodoo singsong words in 
ominous voice that carries fear and respect at the opening of the rite. The 
courtroom is full of staring men and women shut within closed doors, guarded 
by officials wearing uniforms to confound the simple inside the sacred 
precinct. This dispels all hope of mercy to the unlettered, the poor and 
helpless, who scarcely dare express themselves above a whisper in any such 
forbidding place. . . . Never take a wealthy man on a jury. He will convict, 
unless the defendant is accused of violating the anti-trust law, selling worth- 
less stocks or bonds, or something of that kind. Next to the Board of Trade, 
for him, the Penitentiary is the most important of all public buildings. These 
imposing structures stand for Capitalism. Civilization could not possibly exist 
without them. Don't take a man because he is a "good" man; this means 
nothing. You should find out what he is good for. 1 

Harrow's warning of the class nature of justice in the United States is 
as precise as the crosshairs on a rifle-sight as every courtroom docket 
shows. At a homecoming party after his Watergate indictment, H. R. 
Haldeman and his wife were described by Los Angeles civic leader 
Z. Wayne Griffin as "an example of what a good American family can 
be — well-motivated, well-mannered, well-disciplined. Good people." 
Good for what, asks Mr. Darrow from his grave of the other guests at the 
party, including the chancellor of UCLA, the president of the Times- 
Mirror Publishing Company, and former HEW Secretary Robert 
Finch. 2 

Three weeks after those festivities, several hundred judges including 
six justices of the state Supreme Court, politicians including Mayor-elect 
Abe Beame, clergymen, businessmen, news executives and lawyers 
gathered at New York's Biltmore Hotel to honor attorney Roy Conn's 25 
years as a member of the New York Bar, during which he was indicted on 
three separate occasions for conspiracy, bribery and fraud. Even as the 

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Nothing Could Be Finer 

ball was held, Mr. Cohn was evading back tax payments to the city. 
Praise for the honored guest's years as counsel to Senator Joseph 
McCarthy and as prosecutor of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on the road 
to later corporate wealth was further evidence of the by-now axiomatic 
theory that those with flag-pins in their lapels have stickum on their 
fingers. 3 Mr. Cohn had just taken a kindred spirit, Spiro Agnew, to task, 
in the pages of The New York Times, for making "a dumb mistake 
. . . in quitting [the Vice-Presidency] and accepting a criminal convic- 
tion." 4 

Cohn may have been right, knowing as he does the legal lay of the land. 
Richard Kleindienst, former U.S. Attorney General, for example, was 
fined a hundred bucks for perjuring himself regarding an anti-trust suit 
against ITT. The U.S. district judge in the case said that Kleindienst's 
offense demonstrated "a heart too loyal and considerate of others." For 
Kleindienst, the system works marvelously: "There isn't another country 
in the world," he said, "where persons situated in the highest seats of 
power would have had the application of justice as occurred here." 5 
Meanwhile, Richard Nixon, Godfather to Kltinditnsi's consigliere, lives 
in peace with dishonor at San Clemente, not San Quentin. And a Nixon 
enforcer named William Calley was confined to a Columbus, Georgia, 
rent-free apartment complete with lady-love, a Mercedes Benz sports car 
and $17-an-hour flying lessons, for having been found guilty of murder- 
ing 22 women and children by a jury of his military peers. Support for the 
mass murder in his home state was headed by the then Governor and 
Latter Day Human Rights Saint Jimmy Carter. In a domestic My Lai, 39 
prisoners and prison guards were shot down by state police at Attica 
Correctional Facility in upstate New York. Sixty other prisoners were 
indicted on hundreds of charges with potential sentences of 600 years or 
37 life terms each, while the Lord High Executioner went on to become 
Vice President of the United States in charge of domestic planning 

Crime in the streets, the fear of which has been so perfectly orchestra- 
ted by the corporate media, is actually miniscule when compared to 
crime eminating from the board rooms and government suites. Water- 
gates, FBI conspiracies, and the more spectacular crimes in high places 
aside, the run-of-the-mill white-collar crime wave dwarfs street crime. In 
the 18 months between January 1973 and June 1974, for example, white- 
collar crime by businessmen and government officials cost over $4 
billion. In the fiscal year 1973, fraud and embezzlement took six times 
more money from people than did hold-ups and burglaries. Even FBI 
statistics show that that $4 billion loss was four times the national loss 
from larceny, burglary and theft, including auto theft. 6 

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Three 

The toughest penalties, however, were dealt to defendants without 
means. Ralph Nader cites the sentence of Spiro Agnew to three years 
unsupervised probation and a $10,000 fine for failing to pay taxes on the 
$13,551 given to him as bribes, and compares this to the sentencing a day 
later of a California man to 70 days in jail for fishing without a license 
and possessing seven striped bass under the legal size. 7 

In the land of the free enterpriser, no one really expects that the ruling 
class would establish a system of justice more likely to penalize or 
imprison its peers than its antagonists. It goes without saying that the 
prisons are filled with the poor, while the criminals with wealth are, if 
caught, made to go stand in a corner and keep quiet. In recent years, so- 
called country-club prisons have been built to lodge the influence 
peddlers, stock manipulators and price fixers who overextend their 
prerogatives. The Allenwood (Pa.) federal facility, which housed second- 
string Watergate criminals, is surrounded by 4,250 acres of verdant, 
rolling hills on the southern fringe of the Allegheny Mountains. No walls, 
fences, gates, cells and bars do these prisoners face. There are two tennis 
courts — one indoors and one outside, a baseball diamond, basketball 
courts, patios, verandas with umbrella tables, a well-stocked commis- 
sary, telephones, grassy courtyards, liberal visiting and furlough priv- 
ileges. Jeb Stuart Magruder could keep his tennis rackets, sneakers and 
can of balls alongside his bed, ready to get to the courts for a game or two 
upon waking. 8 

Nowhere is the class nature of the criminal justice system felt so 
sharply as in North Carolina, for nowhere are class distinctions seen in 
such bold relief with an all-powerful ruling group and its working class 
and poor without organization. And nowhere in the United States has 
punishment of the poor been so harsh as it has historically been in the 
Tarheel state. In times past, crimes were considered the work of the 
Devil. The North Carolina Supreme Court declared in 1862, "To know 
the right and still the wrong pursue proceeds from a perverse will brought 
about by the seductions of the Evil One." 9 The Old Testament appeal of 
an eye for an eye has always brought a quicker response than the New 
Testament call for forgiveness. Raleigh News and Observer editor 
Claude Sitton suggested that "the amount of violence in North Carolina 
has a religious connotation. Folks here believe in stern punishment, a 
reflection of their Baptist and Presbyterian Protestantism." 10 The case 
has been made more than once that the same ersatz Christianity of the 
Klan pervades official state criminal justice policy. Bogus Christians see 
those of different color or persuasion as "less than Christian." In the 

99 



Nothing Could Be Finer 



"Christian" order of things, those who seek change are spurred on by 
"outside agitators," messengers for Old Nick. 



1 hree days after Ben Chavis was indicted on the accessory charge, one 
man of the church, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, demonstrating his 
power of positive thinking, hosted Richard Nixon on the president's 1971 
New York Christmas shopping visit. In his pastoral prayer entitled 
"When Christmas Comes," Dr. Peale said, "O Lord, we ask thy great 
blessing upon thy servant, the beloved President of the United States. 
Undergird him, we beseech thee, in all the vast problems which he must 
consider. What a responsibility laid upon him, the future well-being of 
the mass of human beings. We thank thee that he has become one of the 
truly great peacemakers in history. Seldom if ever has a world statesman, 
O Lord, fought for peace on so wide a scale with so dramatic purposes. 
Just surround him with your love, guide and help him every day in all 
ways." Mr. Nixon, in his practiced Rotary Club luncheon manner, was 
reportedly shyly pleased with the sermon. 

A year earlier, while Ben Chavis was organizing the Black community 
of Granville County to protest the Klan murder of Henry Marrow, 
Attorney General John N. Mitchell and his wife, Martha, were hosts at a 
swinging 100th birthday celebration for the usually staid Justice Depart- 
ment. "This is repression?" asked one department official as he drank 
some of the 3,100 gallons of free draught beer that was served along with 
4,000 sandwiches, 4,000 chocolate brownies and several big birthday 
cakes. Mitchell, who had once described himself as "foremost, a police 
officer," was a kindred spirit to Nixon. "Not merely a chip off the old 
block," as Edmund Burke said of the younger Pitt, "but the old block 
itself." 

In the years Ben Chavis and Jim Grant were organizing their people 
for equal education, for better working conditions, for protection against 
police violence, Vice President Spiro Agnew was flying back and forth 
across the land calling for law and order, returning home to Washington 
and Baltimore in time each month to receive his bag-men with their 
bundles of cash. When, later, Agnew precipitately retired from the 
second highest office in the country and pleaded no contest to the same 
charges that sent Al Capone to Alcatraz, he received a three-year 
probation, a $10,000 fine, a "Dear Ted" letter from his benefactor in the 
White House, permission to keep the house he furnished with criminal 
money, and freedom to pursue his business interests in Greece and his 




100 



Three 



six-figure publisher's advance, and to play tennis with one of his favorite 
partners, George Bush, then Republican Party national chairman, later 
director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Agnew's pursuit of happi- 
ness was considerably more than was allowed to the dead or mangled 
Kent State students he called "bums." 

While Ben was in Wilmington preventing the slaughter of innocents at 
the Gregory Congregational Church, Messrs. Maurice Stans, Jeb Stuart 
Magruder and Charles Colson were building up the campaign treasure 
chest for the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). Later, 
when their illegal $2 million gifts from the dairy monopolies came to 
light, an administration apologist, Treasury secretary George Shultz, 
explained that they took the money to prevent lobbying payoffs to 
Congress for higher milk prices. Preventive corruption could now take 
its rightful place alongside preventive detention and preemptive first 
strike in the Nixonian lexicon. 

Among the preventive corruptors of these years of Ben Chavis' coming 
of political age were Orin Atkins, chairman of Ashland Oil; Harding L. 
Lawrence, chairman of Braniff International; H. Everett Olson, chair- 
man of Carnation Dairy Corporation; Russell De Young of Goodyear 
Tire& Rubber; and Thomas V. Jones, chief executive of Northrup. All 
were convicted for illegal campaign contributions, a felony crime. All 
were fined a thousand bucks, except Jones who was fined $5,000. All 
retained their same positions at yearly salaries ranging from $212,500 for 
Olson to De Young's $350,000. 

Herbert Kalmbach, Nixon's attorney and keeper of the $1.9 million 
purse that paid for the president's private police force in the years when 
Ben Chavis and Jim Grant were walking on the "Mountaintop to the 
Valley" march to prevent execution of sixteen-year-old Marie Hill, was 
sentenced to six months for his Watergate crimes. Six months is less than 
hundreds of thousands of poor people spend in jail awaiting trial on 
minor charges of which they are presumed innocent. Kalmbach told a 
press conference he had "renewed appreciation and confidence in the 
essential fairness of America's justice." 

Still bitter is G. Gordon Liddy, who headed the Nixon secret police 
team. Liddy, a former prosecutor and federal narcotics agent, believes 
that Nixon's error lay in being "insufficiently ruthless," a remarkable 
charge against a man who ordered the deaths and permanent maiming of 
two million Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians. Speaking of the 
Watergate conspiracies, this member of the New York Bar argued, "If 
one is engaged in a war, one deploys troops, one seeks to know the 
capability and intentions of the enemy." 



101 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

These were the men who called each other code names like Fat Jack 
and Sedan Chair and Ruby II while they played their deadly games 
during the time Ben Chavis was organizing garbage workers in Char- 
lotte. They were not bad men; none of them ever burned down a convent. 

In the years 1967-1971, when Ben emerged as the leader of North 
Carolina's Black youth and their parents, U.S. Department of Defense 
Intelligence agents carried out illegal surveillance actions against an 
"estimated 100,000 individuals" and a "similarly large" number of do- 
mestic organizations, according to the Senate Select Committee on 
Intelligence Activities. Their targets included the 1968 Poor People's 
March on Washington, every organization opposed to the Vietnam War, 
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, New York University, 
Dr. King, singers Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez, Georgia legislator Julian 
Bond, Dr. Benjamin Spock and Illinois Senator Adlai Stevenson III. In 
those same years, Army intelligence cooperated with local police intel- 
ligence units, as in Chicago, to finance and direct right-wing terrorist 
organizations like the Legion of Justice, which was unleashed against the 
pacifist Quaker organization, the American Friends Service Committee. 
Few in North Carolina, one of the most militaristic of states and the one 
with the biggest Department of Defense (DOD) installations, would 
wager that the Pentagon targets in those years did not include Ben Chavis 
and Jim Grant, both associated with anti-war activities, with the South- 
ern Christian Leadership Conference and the American Friends Service 
Committee. 

While the DOD carried out its illegal domestic activities, its kin in 
cloaks-and-daggers at the CIA were similarly engaged. Under Presidents 
Johnson and Nixon and the direct supervision of agency director 
Richard Helms, the CIA implemented Operation Chaos from 1967 to 
1974. This plan which Helms later admitted exceeded even the agency's 
own security interests, included the infiltration of spies and disrupters 
into "radical groups around the country, particularly on the campuses," 
as well as into "such groups as the Women Strike for Peace, the 
Washington Peace Center, the Congress of Racial Equality and the 
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee." As the CIA went about 
its pursuit of "national security" by staging simulated chemical-warfare 
attacks on the New York subway system, feeding LSD to unsuspecting 
bar patrons, developing and hoarding exotic poison gases from shellfish 
for future mass extermination plans, using newsmen, teachers and clerics 
as spies, overthrowing the democratically elected government of Chile, 
and meshing operations with organized crime syndicates to assassinate 
foreign leaders and perhaps domestic ones, Operation Chaos gathered 

102 



Three 

information on 300,000 U.S. citizens. As SNCC and CORE were targets 
of the CIA's Chaos, undoubtedly Ben Chavis and Jim Grant were among 
its victims. 

The 30 million television viewers who watched "The FBI" each week in 
those years never saw portrayed any of J. Edgar Hoover's poison pen 
mail aimed at getting schoolteachers fired and pitting wives against 
husbands. ABC-TV's "FBI" never showed the compilation of lists of 
millions of citizens, with a priority list of 15,000 to be rounded up for 
concentration camps in "a national emergency." Nor was there drama- 
tized the story of FBI informer Gary Thomas Rowe, Jr. who told the 
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the FBI condoned his 
participation in acts of violence as a member of the Klan in the 1960s. 

The FBI's acceptance of Klan violence was of a piece with the entire 
thrust of the Cointelpro operations directed against the Black leadership 
of the United States. The FBI's Cointelpro (Counterintelligence Pro- 
gram) found its legs in provocations directed against the Communist 
Party, like Operation Hoodwink, designed to incite organized crime 
syndicates to violently attack the Party. Cointelpro operations expanded 
to include disruptions and provocations against the Socialist Workers 
Party and the "New Left" and anti-war movements. But the main 
Cointelpro efforts were aimed at the Black communities, what J. Edgar 
Hoover called in his secret memos, "Black Nationalist-Hate Groups." 
Hoover, in his Cointelpro directive, wrote that, "The purpose of this new 
counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or 
otherwise neutralize the activities of Black nationalist, hate-type organi- 
zations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership and 
supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disor- 
der. . . No opportunity should be missed to exploit through counterin- 
telligence techniques the organizational and personal conflicts of the 
leadership of the groups and where possible an effort should be made to 
capitalize upon existing conflicts between competing Black nationalist 
organizations." 

At the top of Hoover's list of apparent "Black Nationalist-Hate 
Groups" was the Rev. King, the Nobel Peace Prize winner. After 
Hoover's death, the FBI admitted to at least 25 separate incidents of 
bureau harassment of Rev. King during a six-year campaign to discredit 
the civil rights leader. The acknowledged incidents do not include the at 
least 16 illegal wiretaps of King's home, offices and hotel rooms, although 
they do include attempts, through poison pen letters, to induce Dr. King 
to commit suicide. This "vicious vendetta" — the words are those of the 
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence— did not end with Dr. King's 

103 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

murder, but continued with attempts to smear his memory and harass his 
widow. 

The Hoover memo was signed in August 1967 and the FBI admits that 
Cointelpro activities against the Black communities and their organiza- 
tions continued until at least mid-1971. Those were the years Ben Chavis 
came to leadership of Black students in Charlotte, Raleigh, Oxford, 
Warrenton, Henderson, Elizabethtown and Wilmington, North Car- 
olina. (Special Cointelpro directives aimed against SCLC, SNCC and 
the Black Panthers came out of Hoover's office in the years Ben was 
associated with those organizations.) 

To the Nixon White House — as subsequent investigations demon- 
strated — every longhair football player, liberal news columnist and 
Hollywood peacenik had become enemies. But the Nixon Justice De- 
partment and State Department singled out certain "enemies" for havoc. 
The muscle for these operations was provided by the Justice Depart- 
ment's Internal Security Division (ISD), which had been abeyant since 
the height of the Cold War. In 1970 the ISD was revived under Assistant 
Attorney General Robert Mardian, Southwest campaign manager for 
Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential quest and Nixon's emissary to the 
right-wing yahoos of Arizona and the Southwest. Before coming to the 
Justice Department, Mardian served as chief counsel to Nixon's Depart- 
ment of Health, Education and Welfare, where he supervised the South- 
ern strategy and anti-busing policies of the Administration. 

Mardian brought to the ISD a hard-nosed and heavy-handed 
prosecutorial bent, going after pacifist Catholic priests, draft resisters, 
Daniel Ellsberg and Tony Russo, Irish Republican supporters, and all 
other manner of White House "enemies." Mardian is said to have told an 
FBI agent that the way he intended to proceed was "to set up a list of key 
leaders and we target them for prosecution, and we go after them with 
blanket coverage 24 hours a day until we get them." Through prosecu- 
tions, grand jury inquisitions and through cooperation with the FBI, 
Mardian's ISD relentlessly went about its nasty business. 

A special feature of the Mardian method was the use of the agent 
provocateur. The FBI informer Robert Hardy who provided the skills, 
supplies and logistics for the draft board raid by the Catholic pacifists of 
the "Camden, N.J. 28"; the FBI informer Larry Grathwol, the most 
experienced bomb-maker for the Weather Underground; the FBI in- 
former William Lemmer, advocate of bombing the 1972 Democratic and 
Republican conventions in Miami and chief witness against the eight 
Vietnam Veterans Against the War in Gainesville, Fla. Mardian 
organized through similar personnel and tactics the prosecution of the 

104 



Three 

Harrisburg 8, Chicago 7, the Pentagon Papers defendants, and the 
Wounded Knee cases. 

Mardian and his boss at the Justice Department, John Mitchell, were 
of course themselves convicted as leaders of the Watergate conspiracy. 
But while in authority Mardian, through his ISD, was a key element of 
the White House police apparatus, giving intelligence information on 
political opponents to H. R. Haldeman and John Erlichman, or to their 
counterparts at the Committee to Re-Elect the President. James Mc- 
Cord, Jr., CIA agent and convicted Watergate burglar in charge of 
CREEP security, received "almost daily" reports from Mardian's ISD. 

Mardian seemed to view civil liberties as a memorable phenomenon 
but happily a thing of the past, like goldfish swallowing or Cro-Magnon 
man. His aggressiveness at ISD was rewarded by Nixon when the 
administration decided to "reactivate the moribund Intelligence Evalua- 
tion Committee (IEC) of the Department of Justice,'* according to the 
report of the Rockefeller Commission, "On CIA Activities Within the 
United States." The Rockefeller report concludes: "The initial meeting of 
the reconstituted IEC occurred on December 3, 1970 in John Dean's 
office in the Old Executive Office Building. . . . The Committee was 
composed of representatives from the Department of Justice, the FBI, 
the CIA, the Department of Defense, the Secret Service and the National 
Security Agency. A representative of the Treasury Department was 
i invited to participate in the last two IEC meetings. The Chief of 
| Counterintelligence was the CIA representative on the IEC, and the 
Chief of Operation Chaos was his alternate." Mardian was chairman of 
the IEC, what one critic dubbed, "a sort of domestic war room," which 
met weekly on such matters as "The Inter-Relationship of Black Power 
Organizations in the Western Hemisphere." 

The Rockefeller Commission reported: "The IEC was not established 
by Executive Order. In fact, according to minutes of the IEC meeting on 
February 1, 1971, Dean said he favored avoiding any written directive 
concerning the IEC because a directive 'might create problems of 
Congressional oversight and disclosure.' Several attempts were neverthe- 
less made to draft a charter for the committee, although none appears to 
! have been accepted by all of the IEC members. The last draft which could 
be located, dated February 10, 1971, specified the 'authority' for the IEC 
as 'the Interdepartmental Action Plan for Civil Disturbances,' something 
which had been issued in April 1969 as the result of an agreement between 
the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense. Dean thought it was 
sufficient just to say that the IEC existed 'by authority of the President'. 
. . . [CIA Director Richard] Helms testified that he understood that the 

105 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

IEC had been organized to focus and coordinate intelligence on domestic 
dissidence." 

Nobody in the IEC has ever divulged what its files contained or where 
the information it obtained came from. Only one known outsider, from 
the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, ever saw the files 
and he reported that they included detailed dossiers on leaders and 
memberships of "movement" organizations. One student of criminal 
justice under Nixon, Mitchell and Mardian suggests that the way the IEC 
was set up, without charter and without checks, indicates that it may 
have been a front or intelligence-laundering operation for the CIA, 
which is forbidden by law to spy domestically. That James Angleton, 
with Mardian; it seems Huston was more interested in spying, Mardian 
of revelations of CI A domestic illegalities, was the CIA representative on 
the IEC, lends credence to this hypothesis. 

In 1970 while the ISD was still going full-force under Mardian, White 
House aide Tom Charles Huston devised his now infamous plan for wire 
tapping, burglary, mail covers and other illegal activities under Oval 
Office authority. But J. Edgar Hoover, pleased as Punch with his own 
Cointelpro, refused to go along with the Huston Plan, and Nixon was 
forced to abandon it. After Hoovefs veto, Mardian asked Huston to 
become his assistant. Huston declined the offer because of differences 
with Mardian; it seems Huston was more interested in spying, Mardian 
with jailing. Three months later Mardian set up the IEC. 

Students taught to believe the words chiseled into marble courthouses 
might question Mardian's fist-in-the-velvet-glove approach to criminal 
justice. What right, they might ask, has the government to infiltrate, spy 
on and disrupt the lives of citizens and their organizations if that 
government is democratic. Regrettably, the answer would appear to be 
that government in these United States is not of the people but in 
opposition to the people. It is one thing to protect against crime, another 
to protect against political opposition. Marxists of course hold that any 
government is a superstructure built upon and representative of the 
economic system in which it operates. In the United States, the most fully 
developed capitalist system in history, a "dictatorship" of the capitalist 
class prevails. That is, all the basic decisions of the society — foreign 
policy, whether or not to go to war, expansion or restriction of the public 
sector, austerity or spending, repression or relaxation — are determined 
by the interests of the dominant class and its political representatives. 
Particularly in the last 40 years of U .S. history has the role of government 
as arbiter in favor of capital become clear, first to save the system from 
economic crisis and organized mass insurgency in the 1930s, then to 

106 



Three 

transform the economy to a permanent wartime footing during the 1940s, 
the subsequent maintenance of a worldwide army and police force, and 
the development of the biggest police and prison establishment in the 
world since then. If the economic structure is based on "private enter- 
prise" dominated by monopolies, where decisions are made for and in the 
interests of the few, and the many — the workers — are excluded from 
decision-making, then the government that is built on that structure will 
reflect those tendencies. Only sustained, organized and united popular 
movements are able to force alterations in the decisions by those in 
power. 

Democratic gains, expansions of civil rights and civil liberties came 
only after mass demands and mass struggle, often at great sacrifice, 
including the sacrifice of lives. This was true in the revolution to found 
the United States, in the wave of slave revolts and the Civil War, in the 
struggle for democracy and Reconstruction, in the fight for economic 
justice in the 1930s, for civil liberties in the McCarthy period and for civil 
rights in the years that followed. Each of these attempts to expand 
democracy were seen as threats to, and treated as such by, the economic 
dictatorship that prevails. 

In the North Carolina of Duke Power and Wachovia Bank and J. P. 
Stevens and R.J.Reynolds, the civil rights movement of the late 1960s 
and early 1970s, led in large part by Ben Chavis, was perceived in much 
the same way as earlier labor struggles in Gastonia and Winston-Salem 
and Henderson. That movement was seen by mill owner and banker, by 
the "special interests" that control the state government, by their surro- 
gates in power intent on attracting still more industry to the state, as a 
threat to their power. They were determined to kill that movement by 
decapitation. 

When Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, using his "South- 
ern Strategy," the idea was to create a "New Majority," to shatter the 
traditional Democratic Party base from the New Deal days with 
organized labor and the Black population at its core. The formerly "solid 
South" of the Democrats was to be broken up; the idea being that the 
Democratic Party on a national level was "too liberal" on the question of 
racism, so Southern Democrats were asked to vote Republican in 
national elections. In fact, this practice had been in effect for a number of 
years and the Democrats remained as ardent in the pursuit of Southern 
racist votes as the Republicans. But in 1968, George Wallace as a 
presidential candidate was a new factor on the national scene. Nixon and 
his campaign manager, John Mitchell, struck a number of bargains with 
Southern politicians, promises to be kept after the election. 

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Nothing Could Be Finer 

Primary among these deals was the vow to maintain segregated; 
schools. The busing question was before the federal courts, and Southern 
racists backed by the White House had agreed to block busing at all 
costs. The FBI was conducting its Cointelpro operations, in coordina- 
tion with other federal, state and local police agencies, with the stated 
goal of beheading any militant Black liberation movement. Black Pan- 
thers were being killed, the Rev. King had just been murdered, local 
Black leaders were being sent to long prison terms in virtually every state. 
When, during the first Nixon term, with Mitchell in charge of Justice and 
Mardian his assistant, Federal District Judge James MacMillan ruled 
that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system must desegregate, by 
busing if necessary, the implications were clear for all of North Carolina's 
schools. Fifteen years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school 
segregation was illegal, North Carolina, through its largest school 
district, was becoming the test case on busing. White parents were 
organized into the Klan and the Rights of White People to defy the law; 
and to create hysteria among whites and fear among Blacks. 

The movement among Black students and parents for equal education 
grew spontaneously in city after city, village after village. That movement 
needed organizers. Ben Chavis and Jim Grant became the best known 
and the most talented of these. As such, they became targets number one 
for the repressive authorities of the state, acting in league with the Nixon 
administration. In North Carolina, whites in government used to wear 
Confederate flag pins in their lapels. Under the Nixon presidency, they 
changed to the stars and stripes. They had come to the belief that the rest 
of the country had changed its mind. 

in the eighteenth century, racist fears of Black people were somewhat 
allayed by the enactment of laws in North Carolina permitting castration 
as punishment for sexual offenses by Blacks, for striking a white or 
running away. In 200 years the laws have changed but the fears remain. 
New Southern whites holding the reins of power deny their racism.; 
Individually, they are capable of kind acts and go to great lengths to 
publicly display their charity and good works, but they are also capable 
of barbarism; kind acts because they are human, barbarism because they 
are racist. The great fear of "Black power," when push finally came to 
shove, was "because if they get power they may do to us what we have 
been doing to them," as one white man admitted in a moment of candor. 

Writing of another time in another place, James Baldwin might well 
have been thinking of North Carolina in 1967-72: "The population! 
becomes more hostile, the situation more tense, and the police force isj 
increased. One day, to everyone's astonishment, someone drops a match| 

108 



Three 

in the powder keg and everything blows up. Before the dust has settled or 
the blood congealed, editorials, speeches and civil rights commissions are 
loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is 
that Negroes want to be treated like men. 

"Negroes want to be treated like men: a perfectly straightforward 
statement, containing only seven words. People who have mastered 
Kant, Hegel, Shakespeare, Marx, Freud, and the Bible find this state- 
ment utterly impenetrable. The idea seems to threaten profound, barely 
conscious assumptions. A kind of panic paralyzed their features, as 
though they found themselves trapped on the edge of a steep place.'" 1 1 

Ben Chavis' "problem" apparently was that he was out of sync with the 
times. For most of the South, the civil rights movement had come and 
gone, and was now something of a political hoolahoop. Civil rights were 
viewed by most whites as a once-pressing moment, now long forgotten, 
like last year's World Series. Yet the civil rights movement had for the 
most part passed North Carolina by, opting for the more retrograde 
states of the Deep South. The Tarheel state was, after all, the New South. 
But now, in 1971 and 1972, as Blacks entered state legislatures and 
sheriffs departments, albeit in small numbers, in Alabama and Georgia, 
they were still left waiting in North Carolina. Little gray "Johnny Reb" 
caps still filled the curio shops of North Carolina, and "Dixie" was still 
standard fare at stockcar races and high-school assemblies. 

During the days of McCarthyism following World War Two, Commu- 
nists and other leftists of the 1930s were referred to as "premature anti- 
fascists" for their support of the Spanish Republic against the onslaught 
of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco before it was the current thing to do. 
Perhaps Ben Chavis and Jim Grant would some day be called "deferred 
freedom-fighters" for taking up the civil rights fight in the South after 
most of the North was running for cover as the struggle for justice moved 
closer to home. "Civil rights" had again become unmentionable in polite 
society; this year ecology was preferable. 



! V-/nly one week before he was indicted on December 17, 1971, with 
[I Molly and Leatrice Hicks on the "accessory after the fact of murder" 
ij charge in Wilmington, Rev. Chavis was indicted along with Jim Grant on 
federal charges of conspiracy to aid Al Hood and David Washington flee 
the country to avoid prosecution on the dynamite-possession rap in 
Oxford the year before. Bail for Ben and Jim was set at $20,000 each. 
When the "Wilmington Three" indictments came down seven days later, 

109 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Ben had to post an additional $10,000 bail. One month after that, on 
January 30, 1972, Jim Grant, T. J. Reddy and Charles Parker were 
indicted for arson conspiracy in Charlotte around the Lazy B stable fire 
four years earlier. 

Ben was in Portsmouth, Virginia, when the news came of the federal 
indictment. Still working as field organizer for the N.C-Virginia office of 
the Commission for Racial Justice, Ben was asked to come to Ports- 
mouth by Black parents and students trying to save the I.C. Norcum 
High School from being closed down. In the course of the school 
struggle, other problems in Portsmouth were exposed — police brutality, 
discriminatory hiring practices, and such. On Thanksgiving, the Black 
community, through Ben, called for a school and merchants boycott for 
the rest of the year. 

Black students went to school every morning but not to classes. 
Instead they held a peaceful picketline, joined by their parents. But the 
police soon tired of the daily demonstrations and on December 10, 
brought their canine squad to the school and turned the dogs loose on the 
students. That night the Portsmouth radio announced that the police 
were searching for Ben Chavis, wanted in North Carolina for committing 
a federal crime. Chavis, said the news, was a criminal fugitive hiding in 
Portsmouth. 

Ben asked attorney Ferguson in Charlotte to meet him in Raleigh 
where he would turn himself in. He would travel to Raleigh unan- 
nounced, to avoid being shot down by the Portsmouth police, North 
Carolina Highway Patrol or vigilante bounty-hunters along the way. He 
went first to Norfolk, grabbed a Trailways bus to Raleigh and walked 
across town to his sister Helen's home. Helen was then teaching at St. 
Augustine's. 

In the morning, Ben turned himself in to the Alcohol, Tobacco and 
Firearms people of the Treasury Department who were in charge of the 
case. Placed in handcuffs and rushed before the magistrate, he was 
charged with aiding the federal fugitives Hood and Washington, and 
with possession of the illegal dynamite which Hood and Washington 
drove into the Oxford roadblock 18 months earlier. Bail was set at 
$20,000 and the Commission for Racial Justice posted the $2,000 
security bond. 

Ben went to New York to discuss the case with the Commission's 
national office and its executive director, Dr. Charles Cobb. While there, 
the Wilmington Three charges were announced on the radio. Chavis was 
wanted for murder, the news said, for the shooting at Mrs. Hicks' home 
in March. Ben flew back to Wilmington with a Commission attorney and 

HQ 



Three 

co-worker Irv Joyner, who had prearranged with the local authorities 
that Ben would turn himself in. At the airport, Kojo and other members 
of the Temple of the Black Messiah were on hand to meet Rev. Chavis. 
Joining them were several dozen New Hanover sheriffs deputies and 
local police. As Ben debarked from the plane, a detective read the 
warrant to him, there on the runway, and escorted him to a waiting police 
car. The cops did not allow his attorney to ride with Ben, who was 
hurried downtown for bail proceedings and made to post $10,000 bond. 
The next day's Hanover Sun ran a banner headline: "'Big Bad' Ben 
Surrenders." 

After Christmas Ben returned to Portsmouth to continue the boycott. 
The older community leadership was cooperating with the young. 
Makeshift classrooms were set up in churches. The kids would picket the 
official schools in the morning and study at church in the afternoon, in 
mid-January 1972, the police turned the dogs loose on the students again. 
Until then the school boycott was about 75 percent effective, but after the 
police dogs bit the students, everybody walked out of school. 

Ben would often commute the four hours from Portsmouth to 
Wilmington in those days. On the day when the police dogs went after the 
students the second time, Jim Grant and Marvin Patrick were with Ben 
in Portsmouth. That evening, as they pulled into a courtyard to drop off 
some students at home, they noticed an unmarked police car enter the 
courtyard behind them. Ben was on the passenger side in front and got 
out to approach the police. The police demanded Ben's driver's license. 
He told them that he wasn't driving the car, he didn't have to show his 
license, he had broken no laws, to charge him if they thought he had or 
leave him alone. Two other unmarked police cars came into the court- 
yard but by then the people who lived there had come outside to see what 
was going on. The police were far out-numbered, and got back in their 
cars and drove off. 

Usually Ben stayed in the homes of various students or church 
members but, since his friends from North Carolina, Jim and Marvin, 
were with him, he joined them at the Holiday Inn. Tired from the day's 
events, they went right to bed. They were already asleep when the door 
suddenly flew off its hinges and a crew of police pushed into the room, 
their guns drawn. The young men were forced to line up against the wall 
for a body search. "Can you picture it?" asked Ben later. "There we were, 
naked or in our underwear, and the police are patting us down for 
weapons. They got so frustrated that we weren't armed, they tore the 
room apart looking for guns. They brought a camera crew up to the room 
to take mug shots. We hadn't even been busted yet." 

/// 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Ben was placed under arrest— the others were released — for running a 
stop sign, failing to produce a driver's license when driving a vehicle, 
disorderly conduct and disrupting the public schools. Four misde- 
meanors. He was handcuffed and taken down to jail. At the jail were 
David Simmons, president of the United Black Students Association in 
Portsmouth, and his mother. Young Simmons was bleeding from the 
head where the police had beaten him. They had gone into his house and 
dragged him out. He was sick with flu and under doctor's care that day, 
and had not even been in the demonstration at the school. Mrs. Simmons 
was also under arrest for assaulting a police officer. When the police 
came to their home they pushed her aside as she answered the door and 
knocked her down when she blocked their path, hence the assault charge. 
The Commission put up Ben's $2,000 bond. His trial was put off to 
August. 

In February Ben decided to catch the Muhammed Ali-Joe Frazier 
fight on a closed-circuit movie screen at North Carolina State Univer- 
sity's Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh. On his way out of the Coliseum 
with a friend, Ben was approached by a young white man whom he took 
to be a student. The stranger said something to the effect of how good the 
fight was, Frazier winning and all. Frazier had been built up in the press 
as the "good Black man" as opposed to the "militant," talkative Ali. Ben 
said he didn't think the fight was all that great but the white man kept on 
talking of what a good fight it was, and then, "Frazier sure shut that 

n 's mouth." Ben turned on him and told him to shut up. The man 

said, "I know who you are. You're that loudmouth Chavis and I'll shut 
your mouth like Frazier did Ali." 

Ben started walking faster but the man followed him outside. On the 
sidewalk the man told Ben he was a police officer. Ben said he didn't 
believe him and told him to get lost. Moments later as Ben reached his car 
in the parking lot, turned on the motor and started to back out, a half 
dozen police cars, blue lights spinning and sirens blaring, pulled into the 
lot. An officer went to Ben's door, his gun in hand, pulled Ben out and 
told him to put his hands in the air. He was being arrested for assaulting a 
police officer. The white man from the Coliseum appeared and Ben was 
placed in handcuffs. Frank Ballance, a Black attorney whom Ben had 
known from Warrenton, witnessed the arrest and followed Ben down to 
the police station. Bond was set at $500. 

When the trial was held three weeks later, Ballance represented Ben. 
The "assaulted" policeman admitted Ben had not touched him, but had 
assaulted him "by fear," because the cop thought Ben had a knife or gun. 
When he was forced under cross-examination to admit that Ben had 



112 



Three 

actually carried no weapon, he argued that Ben had assaulted him with 
his mouth by calling him names. The case was dismissed, although the 
officer remained on the Raleigh police force. For Ben, his job as 
organizer was becoming as risky as a sack race in a minefield. 

On Monday, February 21, 1971, Ben was in Charlotte to address a 
Queens College symposium. He told the students that "the system" in the 
United States was not working for Black people, that they had to begin 
looking elsewhere for models, that some day he hoped to go to Africa to 
study its liberation movements first-hand. When District Judge C. H. 
Burnett in Wilmington read the news report of Ben's remarks in Char- 
lotte, he raised Ben's bond in the Wilmington Three case from $10,000 to 
$100,000 on the grounds that Ben might jump bail and flee to Africa. The 
raising of bond came in a preliminary hearing to find probable cause in 
the case. Ben was now being held for $100,000 charged as an "accessory 
after the fact of murder," while Donald J. Nixon who was accused of the 
murder itself was released on $3,000 bond. Ben sat in jail for 10 days while 
his attorneys fought for a reduction of bond. When a Superior Court 
judge finally brought it back down to $15,000, the Raleigh News and 
Observer said the reduction "seemingly indicate[s] the change in attitude 
in Wilmington, which early this year won a special state award for its 
effectiveness in dealing with racial problems." 

Finally out of jail again, Ben flew to Gary, Indiana, for the First Black 
Political Assembly, hosted by Mayor Richard Hatcher. Ben was a 
spokesman for the North Carolina delegation and succeeded in getting 
the assembly to pass a resolution condemning the all-white Wilmington 
city government as illegal, due to its uncut umbilical cord stretching from 
the 1898 massacre. Since the Reconstruction government was forcibly 
overthrown, not a single Black had been elected to the city council or 
county commission. The day after the assembly adjourned, March 13, 
Ben returned to Raleigh and drove directly to Wilmington. 

As soon as he crossed the bridge leading into town, police squad cars 
began to tail him. After picking up Marvin Patrick at home, he went 
directly to the Temple of the Black Messiah. Within minutes the Temple 
was surrounded by police. Patrol cars moved in, choreographed with 
June Taylor precision. Ben came outside to see what the fuss was about, 
and was arrested again, this time for five felonies: burning with incendi- 
ary devices, conspiracy to burn with incendiary devices, assault on 
emergency personnel, conspiracy to assault emergency personnel, con- 
spiracy to commit murder. In Battle of Britain tones, the arresting officer 
told Ben that he was being held for the burning of Mike's Grocery during 
the siege of the Gregory Congregational Church 13 months before, for 

113 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

assaulting eight police officers, and for conspiring to murder Harvey 
Cumber, the white man who was killed as he fired into the church. 

It was nearly midnight when they booked him and set bond at $75,000. 
In less than four months Rev. Chavis had been indicted for 12 separate 
crimes, busted five times, and had to post bond of nearly $200,000. (This 
brief record which begins with the "accessory after the fact of murder" 
arrest, does not include the false arrest in Raleigh after the Ali-Frazier 
fight, nor several dozen arrests for parading without a permit and other 
misdemeanors growing out of demonstrations.) While he made his one 
phone call to attorney Ferguson in Charlotte, the police brought in 
Marvin Patrick, Connie Tindall, James McCoy, Jerry Jacobs, Willie 
Earl Vereen and Ann Sheppard. All but Ann Sheppard were high-school 
students, activists in the Wilmington school boycott. The same charges 
brought against Ben were being brought against Marvin Patrick. The 
other four students were charged with arson and conspiracy to assault 
emergency personnel. Ms. Sheppard was charged with conspiracy to 
burn property and conspiracy to assault emergency personnel. Four 
other Black students were arrested soon after. Joe Wright, Wayne 
Moore, George Kirby and Reginald Epps were charged with conspiracy 
to assault emergency personnel and conspiracy to burn property. All 
were placed under $50,000 bond except Ann Sheppard whose bond was 
$20,000. 

While awaiting a probable cause hearing, they were left in the 
Wilmington jail, notoriously filthy with rats and roaches ever present. 
Protests against the conditions by the young defendants brought macing 
and gassing of the inmates. Ben was gassed on three separate occasions. 
One morning fires broke out and the guards refused to extinguish them, 
leaving the prisoners to suffer from smoke inhalation until they could 
finally smother the flames. 

On March 30 the preliminary hearing was held. Thousands of support- 
ers stood in the streets in front of the courthouse. The courtroom was 
packed with friends from the Commission for Racial Justice, the Temple 
of the Black Messiah, and from East Arcadia, Elizabethtown, Burgaw 
and even from as far away as Portsmouth. Again Judge Burnett was 
presiding over Ben's fate. Their relationship was becoming as frequent 
and monotonous as As the World Turns. The hearing proceeded as 
expected, except for when the state's main witness Allen Hall, a former 
mental patient being held on unrelated criminal charges, jumped from 
the stand and lunged for Ben in an attempt to hit him. Eight deputies 
hustled Hall into a side room; others surrounded Ben. 

Predictably, at the end of the hearing Burnett bound the 11 defendants 

114 



Three 



over for trial. Though they had only had a preliminary hearing and not a 
trial and were presumed innocent in the eyes of the law, the men and 
woman were shackled in leg irons, waist chains and handcuffs and 
returned to the Wilmington jail. All were to remain there for months in a 
form of preventive detention, awaiting bail or trial. 



Virtually every county prosecutor's office in North Carolina is all- 
white. In 1976 of 140 district court judges, only 4 were Black. Two of 60 
superior court judges were Black. The 9 appellate court judges and 7 
supreme court judges are all white. 12 Among the state's many legal 
peculiarities is the absence of a statewide public defender's office, 
although the law allows the hiring of private prosecutors; nor does North 
Carolina allow for sentence review. A Black community organizer 
accused of burning down a barn, say, will draw 25 years imprisonment, 
while a white man who kills another will get 3 to 5 years. That Black 
organizer might on appeal get a new trial or a pardon, but he cannot win 
a reduced sentence on the books. 

Small wonder that prisoners see the judge who presides over the 
system of justice as "a political henchman of political bosses," as one 
pardoned former inmate testifies. "After all, a judge is a lawyer who may 
or may not have been a success in the practice of law. He is appointed or 
selected as a judge. If he knew anything about crime and punishment 
before assuming this powerful position, it was probably because he had 
been successful in 'getting convictions' as a prosecutor. In theory, every 
man is entitled to 'his day in court.' The theory is that he must be proved 
guilty of the crime with which he is charged. The theory is that the 
prosecutor, representing the 'people' has the duty to bring out all of the 
facts — to get the truth. However, anyone who has watched a prosecutor 
work will have to admit that his every word is designed to 'put the 
prisoner behind bars' and that truth and the individual rights of the 
prisoner are secondary considerations to what he considers his prime 
objective of 'getting a conviction.' " I3 

The theory of equal justice under law, supposedly a national credo, in 
reality cuts against the American grain, in the phrase of Dwight Mac- 
Donald. In North Carolina, with over one million Black people, only 100 
Black lawyers were practicing in 1975. The Bar Board of Examiners had 
no Blacks, with the result that less than half the Black law school 
graduates ever passed the Bar exam. In 1971, 9 out of 29 Black graduates 
passed the Bar while all of the whites who took it passed. When Blacks do 




115 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

pass, they practice before predominantly white juries. Even in majority 
Black counties like Bertie County, Blacks have been permitted to serve 
on juries only since the 1960s; still today, only 20-25 percent appear on 
jury panels and even less serve on the final juries. 14 

The racial composition of the police departments is even more unbal- 
anced. In 1972 in the city of Charlotte with a 30 percent Black population, 
only 22 of 522 police officers were Black, none of them in positions higher 
than patrolman, the lowest level in the police department. 15 The North 
Carolina Highway Patrol included in 1974 only 18 Black patrolmen of a 
total of 1,160 or 1.5 percent. 16 (Not one woman could be found in the 
Patrol.) By comparison, the Alabama state police was 4.5 percent 
Black. 17 Colonel Edward Jones, then chief of the state patrol, disclaimed 
racism in the agency: "Our Blacks do a good job. We had only one boy 
who caused us problems," he boasted in a tone reminiscent of antebellum 
days of yore. 18 That the daily random violence by police and state 
patrolmen is visited mainly on Black communities throughout the state is 
not incidental to the statistics cited. The Charlotte police force, like its 
brethren in other cities and villages, does not discipline officers for 
brutality, only for abuse of police standards, e.g. being on the take. 

In 1976 Charlotte Police Chief J.C. Goodman led the fight against a 
civilian review board. In February of that year a Black 18-year-old 
Marine recruit, Kenneth M. Brown, died from blows landed by three 
policemen brandishing billy clubs in the Charlotte municipal airport. 
The NAACP and other community organizations called for suspension 
of the officers involved and the establishment of a civilian review board, 
but Chief Goodman would have none of it. "In police work," said the 
chief, "suspension connotates something wrong." The setting up of a 
civilian review board, he argued, would destroy department morale. 19 

A new form of official violence sweeping the country, complete with 
television hero-worship, was the SWAT squad, which no major city 
prone to paramilitarism could be without. Raleigh's SWAT is known as 
the Selective Enforcement Unit (SEU); its assignment is "strategic 
restraint." To selectively enforce the law and strategically restrain the 
lawbreaker, the SEU, with all its military hardware, goes wherever it 
cares to tread. In 1976 the SEU showed up at high-school games where 
violence off the field was anticipated, at Central Prison where more 
violence was anticipated, at courthouse demonstrations in support of 
Joan Little where still more violence was anticipated. No violence ever 
occurred. Unanticipated, violence-wise, was a two-hour standoff on 
Raleigh's Poole Road when a mental patient and 40 police officers 
exchanged hundreds of shots; or the fatal collision in April 1975 between 

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Three 

a carload of teenagers and an unmarked SEU car rushing to the scene of 
trouble. 20 

The State Bureau of Investigation (SB1), North Carolina officialdom's 
pride and joy in law enforcement, had 8 Black agents of a total 260 in 
1974. This was considered a great leap forward by then bureau director 
Charles Dunn who assumed the job in 1969 when there were no Black 
SBI agents out of a total of 57. Dunn conceded that the SBI composition 
created problems: "We have people in law enforcement who shouldn't 
be. We have a lot of sympathizers with the Klan and similar groups, but 
no real activists among our people." 21 Since all SBI agents carry shotguns 
and Magnum .357s, the distinction between a Klan sympathizer and an 
activist is not always easy to discern. 

The SBI cultivates its image as crime buster as assiduously as its 
federal counterpart. One North Carolina crime victim was asked if she 
was afraid. "Why should I be?" she answered, "1 have put my faith in God 
and in the SBI." 22 Under Dunn, a political protege of former Governors 
Luther Hodges and Dan Moore and U.S. Senator Robert Morgan, the 
SBI grew in five years from an annual budget of $750,000 to $4.3 million, 
an almost 600 percent increase in appropriations. "Today our crime 
laboratory is considered one of the best in the country. Our investigators 
are aggressive and as well trained as any officers," said Dunn, as he 
preached the gospel according to St. J. Edgar to local church assem- 
blies. 23 When monies funded by the U.S. Justice Department's Law 
Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) — which supplies SBI 
equipment and training — are included, the SBI budget was $6 million. 24 
The LEAA, which has been called "the Justice Department's Pen- 
tagon" because of its supplying of local police with military armaments, 
also has characteristics of a Justice Department Ford Foundation. 
Established in 1969 by a Nixon administration hell-bent on law and 
order, LEAA started with $63 million to help local cops learn the new 
war technology developed in Vietnam, for application now in the ghettos 
I and barrios. By 1971 the LEAA budget had multiplied nearly 800 percent, 
to $480 million. The 1975 budget surpassed a billion dollars. Altogether, 
i| by 1976 the LEAA had spent $4.4 billion in taxes. Yet crime remained at 
|| record levels and LEAA officials conceded that they "simply do not 
j know what works to reduce crime." One LEAA project was to reduce in 
! two years the number of crimes in eight large cities by 5 percent. For this 
j they spent $160 million; the target cities had an average 10 percent 
i increase in violent crimes and a 43 percent increase overall at the end of 
the two years. 25 

In 1972 alone $400 million was spent by LEAA on developing still 

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Nothing Could Be Finer 

newer electronic spying techniques. Hidden surveillance systems 
monitored the streets around the clock in a number of cities. The now 
convicted John Ehrlichman prepared for the now pardoned Richard 
Nixon a document, "Communication for Social Needs," which unfolded 
a plan to require the installation of FM receivers in every radio and TV 
set, every automobile and boat, to enable the government to propagand- 
ize at will at any moment of the day or night. 

Other LEAA contingency plans developed included the training of 
armies of informers, children in the Boy Scouts and youth corps, to spy 
on their own families; several hundred human experiments in behavior 
control; the walling off of so-called high-crime areas which are invariably 
those urban areas mainly populated by people of color and which do not 
include San Clemente, the La Costa del Sol country club in California 
run by the Teamsters pension fund, or the New York financial district; 
the development of SWAT squads in every burg from the Atlantic to the 
Pacific; the arming of city cops with hollow-nosed "dum-dum" bullets, 
outlawed by international law for use in warfare but legal in the United 
States if used by police against the poor. Law and order has become 
lucrative: Chicago's and New York's finest take in $100 million and $350 
million respectively, enough to qualify for Fortune's 500. More than half 
a million people earn their keep as coppers for 40,000 police departments 
throughout the country. 

A former LEAA official, Martin Danziger, asked whether all the 
materiel being developed for control of dissidents and protesters was 
necessary, replied, "The business community has taken a substantial 
interest in them, and I have faith in their judgment." 26 North Carolina's 
business community was not atypical. From an initial LEAA outlay of 
$1,058,000 for North Carolina in 1959, funding grew to $15,982,000 only 
four years later. 27 A typical LEAA project was the $300,000 subterranean 
Emergency Communications Center run by the Durham police depart- 
ment, with an immense data bank wired into those of the FBI, the 
National Criminal Information Center, National Law Enforcement 
Teletype System and Computerized Criminal History, all federal police 
networks also funded by the LEAA. 

Durham's police were led by Chief Jon Kindice, a graduate of the 
International Police Academy (IPA) and classmate there of Dan 
Mitrone, the fictionalized character of the movie State of Siege who, on 
behalf of the CIA, trained the Uruguayan police and army in the 
rudiments and subtleties of torture and counter-insurgency. Kindice was 
himself the "Public Safety Advisor" in South Vietnam's Quang Ngai 
Province after leaving the IPA in 1967. Quang Ngai encompasses My 

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Three 



Lai, where 350 civilians were massacred during Kindice's tenure. In 1968 
he participated in the CIA's Phoenix program to destroy the South 
Vietnam National Liberation Front's infrastructure by assassinating 
more than 20,000 suspected local leaders. Later Kindice became advisor 
to the chief of the Saigon regime's National Police and Ministry of the 
Interior. From Vietnam Kindice brought his newly acquired knowledge 
home to California, where he worked out of the Sacramento sheriffs 
office through which he received riot control training and other courses. 
"I had a knack for interrogations," boasted Chief Kindice. 28 

The man who hired Kindice was Durham's Director of Public Safety, 
retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Esai Berenbaum, another former 
Vietnam officer, who taught the Green Berets at Ft. Bragg's JFK Center 
for Special Warfare. Still another Vietnam veteran in the leadership of 
the Durham police was Lieutenant Colonel William Robbins (U.S. 
Army, Ret.), chief of the department's auxiliary services. Lt. Col. 
Robbins served in Da Nang as senior advisor to the Saigon military's 
prisoner-of-war camp for the I Corps area, which includes Con Son 
Island, site of the infamous tiger-cage prisons. Robbins also commanded 
the military police battalion which manned the roadblocks in Santo 
Domingo during the 1965 U.S. invasion of that country. 

These are the men whose jobs are made more pleasant and manageable 
because of ample funding and plans of operation supplied by LE AA. The 
LEAA is itself directed at the top and staffed on the bottom by dozens of 
"former" CIA agents and retired military officers. A survey conducted by 
the 200,000-member Retired Military Officers Association in 1972, 
showed that 30 percent of those responding were now working in federal, 
state and local governments. Like General John Tolson, who moved 
from commanding officer at Fort Bragg to North Carolina Secretary for 
Military and Veterans Affairs, the Kindices, Berenbaums and Robbins's 
who people the local police departments, SBI, highway patrol and 
prisons are bringing "pacification" home to the Tarheel state. 



J—/ ate one evening, after two more weeks in the county jail and still 
more mace and gas attacks by the guards, Rev. Ben Chavis was moved 
amid absolute secrecy and intense security precautions, to Wake County 
Jail in Raleigh to face trial with Jim Grant on the federal charges. 
"Federal marshalls conducted the transfer with such speed," reported the 
Wilmington Star-News the next day, "that officials of the New Hanover 
Sheriffs Department were not aware of the move till it took place." 




119 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

The hearings for pre-trial motions gave more than a hint of what was 
to come. Defense attorney James Ferguson charged racial discrimina- 
tion in the jury selection, pointing out that only 6 of the 41 potential 
jurors called were Black. The clerk's office explained that the prospective 
jurors were chosen from the voter registration lists of those who had 
voted in the 1968 elections, that is, for Richard Nixon, George Wallace or 
Hubert Humphrey. Many of the counties from which the jury lists were 
picked were charged with voter discrimination under the 1965 Voting 
Rights Act. Ferguson also objected, without success, to the extraordi- 
nary security measures such as two-way radios in the courtroom and the 
seating of a marshals deputy at the defense counsel table. 

The trial was peculiar from the start, even by New Southern standards. 
Ben and J im were on trial for aiding two "fugitives," and the fugitives, Al 
Hood and David Washington, were in the courtroom throughout the 
trial free of any charges. The "federal fugitive" charges against them were 
dropped, setting up a trial of two men for "aiding" fugitives who no 
longer were fugitives in the law's eyes. During pre-trial motions, charges 
against Hood and Washington for possession of firearms, unregistered 
destructive devices, and making destructive devices without paying taxes 
on them were dropped, when the government offered no resistance to 
motions offered by their defense attorney. The charges against Ben and 
Jim of illegal possession of destructive devices remained standing, even 
though neither had ever been found in possession of such devices and the 
case originated with the arrest of Hood and Washington in a car full of 
dynamite. An underwhelming case at best. 

As the trial developed, Hood and Washington rather than Ben and Jim 
were to prove the key figures for the proceedings. The fix was apparent 
from jump street. Hood's attorney of record was a former U.S. attorney, 
W. Arnold Smith. Smith acknowledged early on that the federal govern- 
ment had been trying for "a long time" to prosecute Ben but had not until 
now "been able to get the goods up enough to prosecute him." A special 
prosecutor assigned to the case, David Long, was formerly assistant to 
U.S. attorney Warren H. Coolidge. Regarding the dropping of charges 
against Hood and Washington, Long argued that the timing was "the 
main thing" and that it was Coolidge's idea. Coolidge refused to discuss 
why the charges were dropped. 

On the opening day of the trial, Hood refused from the stand to tell 
defense attorney Ferguson where he obtained the cars and money he used 
between September 1970, when he and Washington returned from 
Canada, and February 1971, when he was arrested in Charlotte. "Fm not 
going to tell you," he answered Ferguson. When Ferguson pressed him, 

120 



Three 

Hood said, "I don't remember." Ferguson: "You don't remember what 
anybody did but James Earl Grant and Ben Chavis?" Hood: "I remember 
what's necessary for this case." Stanley Noel, the Alcohol, Tobacco and 
Firearms agent who put together the prosecution's case and who had, in 
Ben's college days, monitored his anti-war activities and broken down 
the door to Ben's apartment, also had a selectively faulty memory. He 
told Ferguson he couldn't recall making the statement that he was going 
to get Ben Chavis if it was the last thing he did. 

Later in the trial Washington admitted that he lied initially in a 
statement to the FBI when he told the bureau that the dynamite found in 
his car at the time of his arrest belonged to Joseph Goins, the third 
passenger. He lied, he said, because he "wasn't under oath" and "didn't 
think [he] had to tell the truth." When Ferguson questioned Washington 
as to why he had decided to tell his story to the authorities, the witness 
said he was "tired of running" from "that organization." When asked by 
Ferguson what "organization," Washington replied, "That organization 
that you and Grant are in right now." Ferguson pressed again for an 
answer and Washington said it was "the same organization that pays for 
everything J im G rant does." The exchange was cut short by the judge and 
the prosecution rested its case. 

That was it. The case against Ben and Jim rested entirely on the bizarre 
testimony of Hood and Washington. Asserting their testimony was 
"incredible and unbelievable," the defense decided not to call any 
witnesses. When the verdict was returned it was equally "incredible and 
unbelievable." Ben was found not guilty on all counts, but J im was found 
guilty on both counts, despite the fact that the "evidence" and testimony 
against them were exactly the same. 

After a plea for leniency based on Jim's record of work with VISTA 
and other community projects, and the fact that he had no criminal 
record, the judge sentenced Jim to the maximum 10 years in federal 
penitentiary, 5 years on each count to run consecutively. On the day Ben 
was found innocent of all the federal charges, the New Hanover County 
grand jury returned indictments against him and the Wilmington 11 on 
the charges for which he was arrested the month before. He was returned 
in shackles and chains to New Hanover County Jail. 

Jim's appeal bond was set at $50,000 cash. The amount was appealed 
to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which ordered the trial judge to 
accept 10 percent collateral. Through the efforts of family and friends, 
$5,000 was raised and Jim was released 10 weeks later on Friday 
afternoon, July 7. Three days after that he was to be tried in Charlotte in 
connection with the burning of the Lazy B stable. 

121 



Nothing Could Be Finer 



Hood and Washington would also play the central role in the Lazy B 
trial, in which the defendants — Jim, T. J. Reddy and Charles Parker- 
would come to be known as the Charlotte Three. Charitably, one is 
reminded of Humphrey Bogart's answer in Beat the Devil to Robert 
Morley's query as to whether another character was a liar. "Let's just 
say," said Bogie, as we might say of Hood and Washington, "she uses her 
imagination rather than her memory." 



/~\mid its many Rotarian boasts, Tarheel official propaganda holds 
that "North Carolina is Textiles," a claim not far off the mark. If you're 
bathing with a North Carolina washcloth in the morning, you've un- 
doubtedly bedded down in North Carolina sheets and will be dressing in 
North Carolina corduroys or denim. The textile companies are fast 
becoming multinationals, but textile manufacturing is still centered in 
the U.S. South and the bulk of it in North Carolina. Of the million textile 
workers in the United States, nearly 300,000 work in North Carolina. 29 
Although the country's first cotton spinning mill was built in Rhode 
Island in 1770 and New England fast became the textile center for the new 
nation, Alexander Hamilton was predicting as early as 1775 that even- 
tually it would be necessary to "take the cotton mill to the cotton field, to 
move mills south near the source of raw materials." By the early 
nineteenth century more textile goods were being manufactured in the 
South than being imported into the region. In 1810 the value of home 
textile production in North Carolina was $2,989,000 compared to Mas- 
sachusetts' $2,219,000. In 1817 Colonel Joel Battle formed the Rocky 
Mount Manufacturing Company on the Tar River. The Rocky Mount 
Mills, still operated by the Battle family, is today the South's oldest 
operating textile plant. 30 

Alexander Hamilton's prophecy and Colonel Battle's faith were borne 
out: North Carolina did indeed bring the mill to the cotton, with the 
result that half of all U.S. textiles are manufactured in the state. Textiles 
have long dominated North Carolina industry, accounting for just under 
45 percent of all manufacturing employment. 31 In the Piedmont — the 
central section of the Carolinas which has historically been the industrial 
belt of the state — manufacturing employment often exceeds 50 percent 
of the total employment, an industrial working-class concentration on 
the level of Detroit and Pittsburgh. The bulk of those blue-collar workers 
are in textiles. 

As the Piedmont's R.J. Reynolds is the capitalist world's largest 




122 



Three 

tobacco manufacturer, so is Burlington Industries the largest textile 
company in the capitalist world. Its 87 offices, terminals and plants, and 
its 44,000 workers in the state make Burlington the largest single 
industrial employer in North Carolina. 32 With its record $2.1 billion in 
sales in 1973, Burlington's volume was roughly twice that of each of the 
next three largest producers. 33 As Burlington says, "that's a lot of 
money." The textile industry has its official folklore. According to 
Burlington handouts, back in 1919, J. Spencer Love drifted down to 
Gastonia, just west of Charlotte, from Boston. A 22-year-old Harvard- 
educated war veteran, Love founded Burlington Mills four years later. A 
man whose apparent enthusiasm for cotton goods and textile profits was 
bounded only by the seven seas, Love lifted Burlington from a company 
with 40 plants in three states at the outbreak of World War II to a 
multinational firm during the war. The corporation increased its sales by 
166 percent in the course of the war and began to acquire plants in Cuba 
and Australia. The marvels of war production are well appreciated in 
Burlington's board rooms. Today the company has plants in Canada, 
Colombia, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, 
Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, West Germany and Puerto 
Rico. 

J. P. Stevens and Co., Inc., second only to Burlington as a textile 
monopoly, with operations on four continents, was started in Mas- 
sachusetts in the early nineteenth century but following the second world 
war moved South "in a good way" because of "favorable economic 
conditions" and "good labor supply." 34 Of its 83 manufacturing plants in 
the United States today, 66 are in the South, 25 in North Carolina. Like 
Burlington, Stevens has a nose for the larceny of war profiteering. So 
acute is its smell that Robert T. Stevens, former president and chief 
executive officer of the company, was chosen by President Eisenhower to 
be his secretary of the army. One needn't stretch the imagination to figure 
out Stevens' amendment to his Pentagon chief Charles Wilson's dictum 
that "What's good for General Motors is good for the country." 

Also sharing the action in the Piedmont are Cone Mills and Cannon 
Mills, both native Tarheel corporations. Cone, today the world's largest 
manufacturer of denim, corduroy and flannel, reached net sales of more 
than $372 million in 1972. Moses and Cesar Cone, two traveling salesmen 
of dry goods riding the Southern circuit after the Civil War, having tasted 
the beer, wanted to own the brewery. They built their first manufacturing 
plant in Greensboro in 1895 and that city remains the corporate head- 
quarters for Cone. 

While the Cones were traveling through the South, James Cannon was 

123 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

staying in one place— a general store in Concord, N. C, in which he held 
a partnership. Desperate poverty gripped the area in the wake of the Civil 
War. Cotton, known as "white gold" before the war, had been driven 
down in price. Cannon's idea, according to contemporary Cannon Mills 
propagandists, was to open mills near the source of raw material, to spin 
cotton into cloth, thereby providing jobs and prosperity for the area. 35 
Such charity, of course, began at home. The result of this private war on 
poverty is a present-day corporation of 17 plants, 15 in North Carolina, 
some 25,000 employees, and net sales in 1973 of $355 million. 

North Carolina's industrial revolution took place in the Piedmont for 
several reasons. Agriculture was far inferior here to that of the Coastal 
Plain. And the early mills required water-power sites more available in 
the hilly Piedmont than on the flat eastern shores. Water is as necessary 
to textile manufacturing as fibers. After yarn is spun it has to be bathed in 
water and starched to strengthen it for weaving. The needs of the textile 
industry to expand brought new techniques. In 1898 the first hydro- 
electric textile plant in North Carolina was built on the Yadkin River. 
Just two years later, one of every twenty-five mills in the state was using 
electric power. As W.J. Cash wrote in The Mind of the South, "Under the 
touch of Buck Duke's millions, hydroelectric power sprang into being, 
and by 1910 the energy of a million horses was pulsing in the wires of 
Dixie. And literally a hundred lesser industries made their appearance. 
By 1914, and apart from the cotton mills, there were at least 15,000 
manufacturing establishments of one sort or another in the South." 36 

In 1905 Duke organized the Southern Power Company with offices in 
Charlotte, as a result of his partnership in the Catawba Power Company, 
formed six years earlier. Duke soon bought out his partners and owned 
Southern Power by himself. He had hoped to sell electric power whole- 
sale to the Charlotte Consolidated Construction Company for re- 
distribution while selling directly to the textile mills. The local company 
balked at the agreement. Duke, using his personal philosophy of "If you 
can't join 'em, beat 'em," acquired Charlotte Consolidated. Southern 
Power entered the retail market permanently. In 1910 Duke chartered the 
Piedmont and Northern Railroad, also powered by electricity, to provide 
transportation for all industries within the service area of Southern 
Power. The textile industry rapidly expanded and soon finished cotton 
goods were being shipped North. 37 Duke raised most of the two million 
dollars needed to get the Southern Power Company started. Its suc- 
cessor, Duke Power, now has over two billion dollars in financial assets 
and has become the sixth biggest utilities monopoly in the country. 

If there is joy in the board rooms of Duke Power, for the paying 

124 



Three 

customers there is nothing to cheer but cheer itself. In the six years 
between 1969 and 1975, Duke stiffed its customers with nine separate rate 
hikes. North Carolina is "the only state that has passed a law specifically 
driving its Utilities Commission toward basing rate-making decisions on 
economic predictions," which almost certainly means "unfair and higher 
electric, telephone and natural gas bills for Tar Heel customers." The 
law, passed by the state General Assembly in March 1974 was "heavily 
lobbied by the state's major utilities and was written at the suggestion of a 
Duke Power Co. vice president." The economic predictions on which 
rates will be based are supplied by the power companies themselves. On 
April 29, 1974, The News and Observer quoted Charles D. Penuel, 
assistant vice president for Southern Bell Telephone Company in Char- 
lotte says, "Certainly North Carolina has the best and most specific law 
in this regard." 

Duke power users who paid $14.72 monthly in 1970, paid $20.50; Bour 
years later, a jump of nearly 40 percent. Two more rate increases that 
year brought the rate rise to 50 percent since 1970. Duke's profits for 1975 
were in the neighborhood of 25 percent, a handsome neighborhood to 
dwell in. 38 Actually, profits are much higher but hidden through a device 
known as "allowance for funds used during construction (AFDC)." 
According to Business Week, utilities companies report phantom profits 
through AFDC, which gets interest costs on new construction off the 
income statement, where they cut into profits. Duke Power reports 
greater phantom profits than any other company in the United States, 
paying out a dividend to investors which is four times actual operating 
earnings. Duke dividends as a percent of actual earnings are 427.3 
percent. 39 This is nearly twice as high as the next placed utilities company 
in phantom profits— Carolina Power and Light (CP & L) in eastern 
North Carolina — with 219.6 percent. CP & L's phantom profits, in turn, 
were nearly twice that of New York's Consolidated Edison with its 117.3 
percent. 40 

Both CP & L and Duke, of course, place the burden of rate increases 
on the individual consumer rather than industrial customers, a practice 
not limited to North Carolina, but one pursued to new frontiers in that 
state. In 1972, for example, residential customers, using only 23.3 percent 
of Duke's kilowatt supplies, contributed 36.3 percent of Duke's total 
revenues. Industry in the area, using 44.8 percent or almost twice as much 
electricity, paid less money, 31 percent of Duke's revenues. Duke has 
historically sold dearly to working people and cheaply to industry. Duke 
senior vice-president D.W. Booth has said, "It has been the policy of the 
Duke Power Company since its beginning to encourage the influx of 

125 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

industry in the Piedmont Carolina" through the use of low industrial 
rates. The practice was begun by Buck Duke himself. Using his tobacco 
profits to begin his power company, he parlayed his winnings by also 
investing in textile mills that would locate in the Piedmont and use his 
cheap electricity. (In 1974 Duke Power owned 59,000 shares of J. P. 
Stevens, worth some $1.7 million.) 41 

The growth of industrialization and electrification in this century have 
given North Carolina its New South image. To achieve this growth took 
and continues to take large outlays of capital, in amounts only the largest 
banks have available. The banks in turn demand increased profits, even 
though investment in monopolies such as utilities is hardly a gamble. In 
effect the banks own the power supply, and the homeowner or apart- 
ment-dweller who pays his 25 or 30 bucks a month to the power 
companies is actually paying back the banks. In North Carolina, which 
has been shown to lead the nation in such profiteering, this is particularly 
true. Not coincidentally, the state contains the two largest banks in the 
South, to go with its utilities and industrial giants. 

Dominating the Charlotte skyline is the 40-story glass-sheathed tower 
of the NCNB Corporation, the biggest banking concern in the South. 42 
The corporation, controlling about five billion in assets, is parent to the 
North Carolina National Bank which is chaired by Luther B. Hodges, 
Jr., son of the former governor. More than size, NCNB shares carry the 
highest price-earnings multiple of any big bank in the country, including 
New York's Citicorp. 

Until the last decade, North Carolina banking was dominated by the 
Wachovia Bank and Trust Company, with headquarters in Winston- 
Salem. NCNB was formed in 1960 out of a merger of two other North 
Carolina banks with the stated purpose of giving Wachovia some 
competition. In 1973 NCNB moved past Wachovia in assets and depos- 
its; and in the first quarter of 1974 surpassed Wachovia's net income, 
$7.29 million compared with the latter's $7.17 million. 

For the most part, the ruling class of North Carolina provides a 
textbook example of the interlocking directorate. The Wachovia board 
included, for example, William S. Smith, chairman of R.J. Reynolds 
Tobacco Co.; while NCNB's board had the chairman of R.J. Reynolds 
Industries, Colin Stokes. Similarly, Burlington Industries put its chair- 
man, Charles F. Meyers, Jr., on Wachovia's board; and its executive vice 
president, William A. Klopman, on NCNB's. Belk Stores, the largest 
retail store chain in the South, also based in Charlotte, placed its 
president, John M. Belk, on Wachovia's board, and its executive vice 
president, Thomas M. Belk on the board of NCNB. 

126 



Three 

Such corporate incest gets more complex: Duke Power Company's 
board included, among others, a RJ. Reynolds vice-president who was 
also on the board of Wachovia Bank. Also on Duke's board was 
Burlington's finance committee chairman, Howard Holderness, who in 
turn was on the board of Wachovia Realty Investments. Carolina Power 
and Light meanwhile enjoyed the directorship of Wachovia's president, 
John F. Watlington, Jr. 

Running through these corporations and banks of course are represen- 
tatives of the Wall Street stockholders — Citibank, Chase Manhattan, 
Manufacturers Hanover, Lehman Brothers, Morgan Guaranty, and so 
on. For example, Walter L. Lingle, Jr., former Proctor and Gamble 
executive vice-president, served on the boards of both Burlington Indus- 
tries and R.J. Reynolds. 43 

In his classic work, Southern Politics, V.O. Key, Jr. described this 
ruling class as a "progressive plutocracy," a profit-minded business and 
banking elite that favored industrial development and higher education 
because they were good for business. The plutocracy was "progressive" 
because it brought a piece of the South out of the age of the mint-julep on 
the patio overlooking the savannah, and into the industrial revolution. 
Hence the "New South." 

The history of North Carolina's industrial development is a classic 
example of baronic rule with mill villages and financial enterprises run as 
fiefdoms. The city of Durham was formed in the image of Buck Duke and 
the Duke forture is represented everywhere — Duke University, the 
American Tobacco Company, the Duke Endowment, Duke Power. In 
Winston-Salem the Reynolds family dominates in a like manner. Bur- 
lington Industries ran the city of Burlington until the company became 
too big and moved to Greensboro which it now helps run, while keeping 
control of Burlington city. Throughout the Piedmont, villages sprang up 
next to the mills, with company-owned shacks to house the workers and 
company stores to take back their paychecks and then some. 

Of course North Carolina's industries and banks went the way of the 
nation's capitalism in the 1930s and 1940s. With the Great Depression 
and the inability of private enterprise to escape the crisis without the help 
of the government apparatus, there has been a merging of the state with 
the banks and industry. In North Carolina now, towns and villages are 
no longer owned and controlled by the companies. Rather the state and 
local governments — influenced by and acting in the interests of capital — 
manage the lives of the people. 

There is at least one exception to prove the rule: Kannapolis, imme- 
diately north of Charlotte and the eighth largest population center in 

127 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

North Carolina. Situated on an old cotton plantation in Cabarrus 
County, Kannapolis grew from the mill village built by Cannon Mills. 
Now home for 40,000 people, Kannapolis includes more than 19 square 
miles of residential sections, schools, churches and shopping centers 
surrounding Cannon's one-square-mile manufacturing-shopping-hous- 
ing complex. The town has installed a $5.5 million sewerage system, built 
a high school and has a police department nearly 100 men strong. But 
Kannapolis is not a city; it is an unincorporated municipality owned by 
Cannon Mills. The Kannapolis police are on the payroll of the company. 
"Cannon virtually runs Cabarrus County says company Vice President 
Ed Rankin. "We've got our own representative in the state General 
Assembly. And we also have a piece of Rowan County." 44 Rankin was 
himself Governor Dan Moore's director of administration, and private 
secretary and speechwriter for governors William Umstead and Luther 
Hodges. 

If Kannapolis is run by Cannon, and Durham and Winston-Salem by 
Duke and Reynolds, the capital city of Raleigh is the province of all the 
corporations and banks. V.O. Key wrote in 1949, "An aggressive aristoc- 
racy of manufacturing and banking, centered around Greensboro, 
Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Durham, has had a tremendous stake in 
state policy and has not been remiss in protecting and advancing what it 
visualizes as its interests. Consequently a sympathetic respect for the 
problems of corporate capital and of large employers permeates the 
state's politics and government. For half a century an economic 
oligarchy has held sway." As if to verify the Marxist perception of "state- 
monopoly capitalism," Key continued, "The effectiveness of the 
oligarchy's control has been achieved through the elevation to office of 
persons fundamentally in harmony with its viewpoint. Its interests, 
which are often the interests of the state, are served without prompt- 
ing." 4 * 

Apologists for this ruling class — Tom Wicker of The New York Times 
has called it "the Confederate Mafia"— speak of its paternalism in 
worshipful tones that evoke the expectation of background voices by the 
M ormon Tabernacle Choir. The Piedmont of the mill village was a place 
of shiny dreams, the industrial counterpart to plantation life. The 
transfer of rule over the lives of working folk from private hands to the 
state apparatus is an experience still within the memory of most North 
Carolinians. Much residue from the good old days remains: The 
oligarchy still talks— like Citizen Kane — of giving the people their rights 
as if it is payment for services rendered. 

The peruser of North Carolina's corporate annual reports will discover 

j 

128 



Three 

early on that the fine line between "community relations" and "public 
relations" has been erased. Community relations programs are p.r. And 
there is no one so adept at public relations as those that rule North 
Carolina. Before the turn of the century, Buck Duke became one of the 
nation's biggest advertisers, alarming even his business partners with the 
amount of money spent on advertising. Duke designed the "sliding 
package" for carrying tobacco, the container that became the pre- 
decessor of the breakfast cereal box. Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island 
in New York were given free Duke sample brands. 46 

Public relations thus became one of our few native art forms like jazz, 
handpainted ties and frozen foods. In North Carolina, from the people 
who brought us "I'd walk a mile for a Camel," came also the "New 
South." A few years ago, according to textile industry press flacks, 
Robert D. Walters of Burlington Industries heard that the Boy Scouts of 
America were about to drop the textile merit badge for lack of interest. 
"Walters disliked that so much he almost single-handedly mobilized the 
textile industry 'to support their own badge/" Soliciting industry lead- 
ers, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute and Phi Psi fraternity, 
Walters and his colleagues revised the "Textile Merit Badge Handbook" 
which, he says, "puts this dynamic industry in the Space Age where it 
belongs." Since that day when he got "the stay of execution," Walters 
says that Burlington alone awarded 1,500 merit badges in the Piedmont 
in 1973, more than in the rest of the United States all together. 47 

Such good deeds are often cited by corporate and state public relations 
officers to describe a ruling class whose purity of soul would try the 
patience of St. Francis. Cone Mills, for example, distributes a 12-page 
five-color brochure, "What We're Doing About It," meaning the com- 
pany's efforts to preserve the environment, without once mentioning 
byssinosis, the "brown lung" disease that cripples textile workers in 
epidemic proportions. Duke Power had a campaign to convince Pied- 
mont consumers that "radioactivity is not a dirty word." Radioactivity, it 
was explained, "exists in everything— trees, flowers, buildings, furniture, 
animals, even you. It always has. It's just natural." Without quite 
suggesting that Hiroshima might have qualified for a 1945 Model Cities 
program, Duke has a program to induce visitors to its Keowee-Toxaway 
nuclear plant near Clemson, S.C. There the company has carved out a 
landscape of lakes and forests for nature lovers to enjoy among the 
radiation emissions. 

During the Cold War days of the 1950s, when ideological combat 
against socialism jerked U.S. school children about on "free enterprise" 
prayer mats, one point that was constantly driven home was that 

129 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

capitalism, like radiation today, is "just natural." You are a capitalist, the 
kids were told, if you owned your own house, car, books, even your own 
pencil. Like much of the pedagogical paraphernalia that went the way of 
the U-2, Bay of Pigs, Vietnam and Watergate, such teaching methods 
have long disappeared from much of the public education system in the 
United States. But in North Carolina they, like the atom bomb drill, have 
been retained. Public relations in this least challenged corner of state- 
monopoly capitalism sells not just its products but the system itself. 

Backed by the banks and corporations, the North Carolina Legislature 
passed a law in 1974 requiring all high schools to give instruction in the 
virtues of capitalism. The bill amended a 1955 law mandating instruction 
in harmful and illegal drugs. The new law had bipartisan backing. The 
Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, North Carolina's most famous clergyman, has 
never been tentative in praising them that help themselves to others' 
labor: "I would not fault the wealthy, for at the death of Christ, it was a 
rich man who bought the burial spices and assisted in the final prepara- 
tion of his body for the tomb. I recognize, of course, that most of his 
disciples were not men of material wealth, but Jesus had no implied 
criticism of the wealthy as such." 

Duke Power continues to earn more than its share of profits, but its 
carefully created image of a company with a heart, the Bambi of utilities, 
has been tarnished. In a recent special edition of Duke Power magazine, 
the company describes the difficulties of winning the public: "For one 
thing, Duke Power is a monopoly. . . . The public's distrust of big 
business in general and monopolies in particular, evidenced by the 
growing strength of consumer activists, appeared to be an insurmounta- 
ble obstacle " Asked to define the single most improtant objective of 

the company's advertising efforts, one officer replied: "Duke Power is 
not a monopolistic, impersonal corporate giant . . . but a dedicated group 
of friends and neighbors serving the public and the future of the 
Piedmont Carolinas." 48 Adopting the title, "Your Friendly Neighbor- 
hood Power Company," Duke distributed, "Hi, Neighbor" lapel but- 
tons, "Welcome, Neighbor" doormats, and a 45 rpm record of "The 
Duke Power Suite." 

New emphasis on selling "the system" itself came with the consolida- 
tion of the merger between the monopoly corporations and the state 
apparatus in the 1930s and 1940s. North Carolina was, like most of the 
South, particularly desperate during the Great Depression. The New 
Deal was looked to for relief by the citizenry. But the growth of the 
federal bureaucracy under the New Deal, combined with the transforma- 
tion to a permanent war economy following the Roosevelt years, 

130 



Three 



changed North Carolina forever, perhaps even more than the rest of the 
country. Because the major corporations in the state were all-powerful 
and unchecked by any counterveiiing force, they would control the state 
government more completely and with fewer concessions to popular 
need than elsewhere. 



v^harlotte, with 250,000 people, is the biggest city by far in North 
Carolina, nearly twice the size of Greensboro, the state's second city. The 
Queen City is to North Carolina roughly what New York City is to the 
United States — the commercial, banking and cultural capital, as well as 
the largest population center. Here can be found the home base of Duke 
Power Company, the North Carolina National Bank, the American 
Textile Manufacturers Institute. Lying on the South Carolina state line, 
at the foot of the hills that rise to become the Great Smokies, Charlotte is 
the main overland shipping center in the South, being an overnight drive 
to the Gulf ports and the docks of Philadelphia, New York and Boston. 
The city is important enough for John Belk, former chairman of the 
National Retail Merchants Association and chairman of the Belk stores, 
the largest privately owned chain of department stores in the country 
with 400 stores in 14 Southeastern states, to have served as mayor. 

Back in 1965, a Black father named James E. Swann led a group of nine 
other Black parents into federal court in Charlotte and won an order for 
widespread crosstown busing to desegregate the Charlotte-Mecklenburg 
County school system. In 1971 the United States Supreme Court upheld 
that ruling by Judge James B. McMillan, making the school bus a legal 
tool for desegregating schools elsewhere in the country as well. Judge 
McMillan is modest about his landmark decision: "Heck, I was bused as 
a child in Robeson County. Everybody who attends school in North 
Carolina has been bused. Busing isn't the question, whatever folks say. 
It's desegregation." A young Black poet made the same point. "It ain't the 
bus, it's us." 

Anti-busing rallies in 1970 in Charlotte drew as many as 10,000 
participants. Within a year, more than 20 private "academies" were 
organized for 10,000 white students, one of every six white children in the 
county. The offices and home of Julius Chambers, NAACP attorney 
who brought the Swann suit (and partner of James Ferguson, lawyer for 
the Wilmington 10 and Charlotte Three) were destroyed by bombs, 
bused, and local officials supported the attacks. It is instructive to study 




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Nothing Could Be Finei 

the words of Superior Court Judge Frank Snepp spoken in 1974, three 
years after busing was already an accomplished fact, for a reflection oi 
white ruling-class attitudes: "The Black lower classes," Judge Snepp told 
an interviewer, "have a violent and raucous life-style. They use violenl 
language. A certain type of Black is wont to carry a knife as part of a life- 
style. They tend to feel that what happens to them is because they are 

Black, not because of what they've done The NAACP has organized 

chapters in the schools to act as espionage agents to report anything thai 
might be made into a racial issue. Thankfully the school system has its 

own trained police department security force Busing brings unsavory 

elements into the decent community. Little hoodlums beat up white 
children. Fve got a young 12-year-old boy, a very gentle boy. Now that 
he's in junior high school he says he hates Black people. . . . White 
students have now begun carrying chains and knives to school. You car 
understand why, with so many Blacks." 

An epilogue to the brouhaha was provided on May 20, 1975, when 
President Ford came to Charlotte's Freedom Park for a Freedom Day; 
celebration. Ford, who led the mob against busing for desegration, as his 
predecessor led the mob for "law and order," told the crowd of 50,000 61 
"America's capacity for unanimity and diversity, for courage in the face 
of challenge, for decency in the midst of dissention, for optimism in spite 
of reverses, and for creativity in adaption to the rapidly changing world 
in which we live today. North Carolina is a showcase of a state thai 
reveres the values of the past while leading the way toward a progressive 
future." During the rally, Mrs. Billy Graham snatched from a young man 
a sign bearing the Revolutionary War slogan, "Don't Tread On Me."j I 

After a year of trouble in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, Jim 
Grant was indicted together with T.J. Reddy, Charles Parker and; 
another man, Clarence Harrison, on charges of having burned down the 
Lazy B stable in Charlotte in September 1968, more than three years; 
earlier. The Lazy B was the riding stable that Reddy, Parker, Ben Chavisj 
and other students at Johnson C. Smith had integrated in 1967. When, al 
year after the civil rights incident, one of the barns burned, killing 15 
horses, no mention of arson was reported and no link made between the 
two events. This was to become one of the oddest cases in a criminal 
justice system noted for the bizarre. 

From the beginning, Jim, T.J. Reddy and Charles Parker were 
perplexed with the indictment linking them to Clarence Harrison. Nonej 
of them had ever seen Harrison nor even heard his name before this] 
When the court read the charges at the time of pleading, the three men 
said "not guilty" as expected. But Harrison pleaded "guilty" to burning 

132 



Three 

down the stable. The presiding judge, Frank Snepp (of the above 
enunciated view on Black schoolchildren and busing) asked Harrison if 
he was aware of what he was saying and if he knew that the charge carried 
a sentence of two to thirty years. When Harrison answered affirmatively 
to both questions, Judge Snepp allowed him to leave the courtroom, 
continuing his bond until the time of sentencing. No sooner had the 
admittedly guilty man walked away when Snepp ordered the other three 
men into the sheriffs custody for the rest of the trial. The judge refused to 
give a reason for his decision to revoke the bond of the Charlotte Three. 

During the pre-trial motion period, defense attorney James Ferguson 
argued and presented evidence to prove that in Charlotte Black people 
were systematically excluded from grand juries and thus the grand jury 
that indicted the Three was unfair. Jury lists are drawn from voter 
registration lists and, while Blacks in Mecklenburg County were 21 
percent of the population, they were only 14 percent of the registered 
voters. Snepp denied the motion, arguing that the "opportunity (for jury 
selection) is there if Blacks would register to vote." 

Some 25 supporters of the Charlotte Three held a brief picket line 
outside the courthouse on opening day. This brought a court order from 
Snepp forbidding picketing or distributing handbills in the vicinity of the 
courthouse because such actions "tend to influence or intimidate" wit- 
nesses and members of the jury. Only after some stern counseling in 
constitutional law from federal judge James McMillan did Snepp rescind 
his order. 

When the jury was chosen, it consisted of eleven whites and one very 
old Black woman who was hard of hearing and said she was employed "in 
my white lady's house." The prosecution used its challenges to eliminate 
every other prospective Black and Jewish juror. 

The case against the Three was virtually nonexistent. Fire Department 
District Chief K. D. Helms, who originally investigated the Lazy B fire, 
told of a bottle, presumably an arsonist's weapon, found the day after the 
fire near another Lazy B barn that was unharmed by the fire. Helms 
testified that he emptied the contents of the bottle into a can which he 
sent to the FBI laboratory in Washington, D.C., for analysis. The empty 
bottle was given to the Charlotte Police laboratory for a fingerprint 
check. No fingerprints were found on the bottle, which Helms stored in a 
closet after its return from the lab. At the time of trial, Helms could not 
find the bottle and had no idea of its whereabouts. The FBI analysis of 
the bottle's contents found bits of solid matter similar to candle wax. 
Helms told the court that he found no evidence of arson around the burnt 
barn. 



133 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

The state's case rested entirely on the testimony of Al Hood and David 
Washington, who had been the chief witnesses against Ben and J im in the 
federal case ten weeks before. Hood and Washington testified that they 
had participated in burning the Lazy B and attempted to link the Three to 
their act. At one point Hood referred to the 1967 civil rights demonstra- 
tion at the stable but said he thought it occurred in 1968 just before the 
fire. Washington said from the stand that there was a rehearsal for the 
arson in Biltmore Park and that T.J. had used a waterbomb to show what 
he was going to do to the stable. Hood, testifying to the same incident, 
said T.J. used a real bomb which exploded in the park. Hood also 
admitted that he had lied to law enforcement officers before and to 
everybody else "at one time or another." Washington was an equally 
reliable witness, admitting he had been tried and convicted of so many 
crimes he couldn't even remember all of them. Asked "Would you lie 
today if it would benefit you?" he replied, "I can't say what I would do." 

In 1974 Judge Snepp, reflecting back over the trial two years before, 
told an interviewer that, "Hood and Washington are not exactly A-l 
citizens but they realized they had to tell the truth." Whether or not he is a 
valid judge of law is a matter of dispute but Mr. Snepp is clearly no judge 
of character. Hood gave at least three different versions on three different 
occasions about who made the firebombs used in the Lazy B fire. And 
none of his three stories were in agreement with any of Washington's own 
set of conflicting stories as testified to in court, even though both men 
swore they were present when the bombs were made. 

In court on July 12, 1972, Hood testified he couldn't see who threw the 

firebombs. Hood: "Well, the side that I was on was closed off I could 

not see the barn." Washington, who agreed with Hood that they were 
standing next to each other at the time, swore in court the same day that, 
"Both doors to the barn were open. ... I had a pretty good view of the 
inside of the barn." 

As to who made the firebombs, Hood told federal agents on July 21, 
1971, it had been "T. J. Reddy and Jim Grant" and in a separate statement 
the same day, "T. J. Reddy and Clarence Harrison." To the court a year 
later, July 12, 1972, Hood said it had been "T. J. Reddy, Charles Parker, 
possibly Clarence Harrison." Washington was equally at variance with 
himself. In two separate statements on July 12, 1971, he said, "I saw T.J. 
(only)," and later "Grant and T.J. Reddy." In court a year later Wash- 
ington fingered Jim Grant alone. 

When the state finished presenting its case, the jury had to consider the 
sole evidence that a fire had occurred four years earlier and two 
criminals, who were not charged with the crime, had admitted commit- 

134 



Three 

ting the crime along with the defendants on trial. The jury never heard 
mention of the fact that Clarence Harrison had also been charged and 
had already pleaded guilty to the charge. 

Among defense witnesses were Joe Hahn, a Pennsylvania philatelist at 
whose home in State College, Pa., Jim was staying at the time of the 
alleged arson; Andrew Brown, a Penn State student when Jim was in 
graduate school, whom Jim visited on the night the state of North 
Carolina claimed he was out tossing bombs at a barn in Charlotte; 
Brown's college roommate, Phil Coleman, who verified the testimony of 
the visit; and Professor Wells Keddie of Penn State, whom Jim met with 
in the afternoon of the day of the fire. Keddie brought his 1968 appoint- 
ment calendar with him to court. 

The prosecution's response was to attempt to discredit the witnesses. 
Hahn, for example, was accused of being "a card-carrying member of the 
American Civil Liberties Union." Brown, who is Black, was asked what 
"Black-oriented or other militant organizations" he belonged to. And as 
with the other witnesses, he was questioned as to whether he belonged to 
"The Marxist Study Club", "The Pennsylvania Socialist Society" and 
other nonexistent organizations. 

Character witnesses for T.J. Reddy were all known and respected 
Charlotte citizens. The prosecution spared them no less than Jim's 
university associates. Dr. Robert Miller, for example, was asked if he 
hadn't attended a conference in Chicago which opposed the Vietnam 
War and supported Black power. "Yes," Dr. Miller responded, "that was 
a conference of the Lutheran Church." 

Despite the weakness of the prosecution case, the verdict, given the 
time, place and circumstances, came down with the inevitability of 
nightfall. The Charlotte Three were pronounced "guilty as charged." 
Judge Snepp, pleased with the verdict, proceeded to deliver to the 
defendants a sermon stuffed with homilies as stale as leftover cornbread. 
In announcing the astonishingly severe sentences of 25 years for Jim 
Grant, 20 for T.J. Reddy and 10 years for Charles Parker, Snepp 
described the stable burning as "One of the most inhuman crimes I have 
ever heard of," referring to the horses killed in the stable fire. Less 
inhuman apparently, in the eyes of the North Carolina courts, were the 
burning in 1965 of a Mt. Airy store in which an employee was killed by a 
businessman who received only 5-8 years; the firebombing of a Charlotte 
grocery store one month after the Lazy B fire by a white man who was 
sentenced to 3-5 years with a recommendation of work release; the 
burning of a home in which his ex-wife was living by a Charlotte man 
who got 4-5 years; the burning of three Hendersonville schools by a 

135 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

white volunteer fireman who received 5-10 years in December 1971, a 
month before the Charlotte Three indictments were handed down; the 
burning of six barns in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties by four 
white youths who were given sentences ranging from 8 months to 2 years. 
In fact, in the ten-year period of 1965-74 only one burning case drew 
harsher sentences than that of the Charlotte Three, and that was for 
seven separate cases of arson by the same person. Wrote Washington 
Post columnist Coleman McCarthy, "When compared to the 20 years 
Lt. William Calley (who now walks free) got for murdering 22 Viet- 
namese civilians, the severity [of sentencing] is even more striking. 
Fifteen horses in Charlotte are apparently worth more than 22 human 
beings in My Lai." 

As for the admitted Lazy B arsonists, Hood and Washington were of 
course never tried for the crime; Clarence Harrison was sentenced to 7 
years, 5 of them suspended. Judge Snepp, in explaining the harshness of 
the sentences for the Three, said they were beyond rehabilitation because 
they "are educated men." Nevertheless he distinguished between Charles 
Parker whom Snepp viewed as an impressionable dupe, and Jim Grant 
whom he considered an "organizer and leader." Snepp called T.J. Reddy 
"a man of promise, of talent," but said the talent had been misdirected. It 
was as if T.J. had wandered into church, made a sacrilegious joke and 
now the priest was trying, ever so patiently, to set him straight. He 
accused Reddy of being able to mold people's minds and scolded him for 
doing so to bad ends. Later, writing from prison, T.J. wrote his "Judge 
Poem." 

. . . .Judge says he thinks I am intelligent, creative 
Said I had a future 

But since those voodoo dolls keep looming in his mind 

And his fears keep mounting 

Judge Snepp snips snaps at my heart 

Labels me tactician, conspirator, overeducated revolutionary 

Beyond rehabilitation 

Gives me a 20-year sentence 

And allows those who confess to the crime 

We are accused of 

To escape prosecution 

Judge deals with life 

In terms of lovelessness 

My only crime is my love of freedom 

the color of my skin 

136 



Three 

But in America's courtrooms 

I am left at the mercy of laws 

Designed to try me into submission 

But I cannot live your lies, judge 

I can't smile while you heap racist laws on me 

And have you expect me to be grateful for them 

Judge said I am something of a romantic 

And, yes, I confess I am 

I love life, I love love 

And I am romantic minded 

Knowing that in the midst 

Of all the hatred and death 

My love of life is all I have left 

(From Less Than a Score, But a Point: Poems by T. J. Reddy, Random 
House, New York, 1974.) 



137 



Four 

If the poor are too well off they will be disorderly — 

Cardinal Richelieu 



j n 1924 Buck Duke left the Duke Endowment as his legacy to attract 
industry to North Carolina. Thirty years later the state's first self- 
proclaimed "businessman in the statehouse," Governor Luther Hodges, 
made industry-hunting the first priority of the state government. An 
entire division of commerce and industry in the state's Department of 
Natural and Economic Resources is now devoted to industry-hunting, 
working with and complementing the efforts of the local entrepreneurs 
and Chambers of Commerce and the industry-hunters for Duke Power, 
CP & L and the banks. In 1973, for example, 104 new plants, representing 
an investment of $267 million, were brought into the state. 1 An addi- 
tional $200 million was invested in existing plants. A quarter of the total 
new investment came in textiles and lumber, as did half the new plants 
and two-fifths of the new employees. But 45 percent of the new invest- 
ments were in chemical, plastics and rubber plants. 2 Moreover 80 percent 
of the new industrial plants were outside the Piedmont, the bulk in the 
traditionally agrarian East. 

This development is according to plan. North Carolina is the 12th state 
in the country in population. All the first 1 1 have large urban areas. North 
Carolina has only four cities with more than 100,000 people and only one, 
Charlotte, with a quarter-million. Official state statistics consider con- 
centrations of 2,500 persons or more as "urban areas." The "Statewide 
Development Policy" prepared under Governor Robert Scott in 1972 
saw "the growth of smaller centers of population" as its "primary 
objective." Growth in "places which were closest to where people needed 
jobs if they were to remain" in North Carolina became "the basis for all 
investment planning efforts." The trend, planned by the state in coopera- 
tion with the corporations, is for a decentralization of manufacturing 
employment, dispersed to increasingly smaller population centers. 3 

This policy— increasing industrialization by keeping people on the 
farms — seems illogical as a flight of fleas. But inherent in the plan is the 
great obsession of those who make policy for North Carolina — prevent- 
ing the organization of its workers. 



141 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

"Our main selling point is good labor," says the man whose job for 
Duke Power is to induce Northern industry to open plants in North 
Carolina. "Our workers aren't spoiled by organizations, although there 
are always a few bad apples. A big selling point is that we have no unions 
to speak of. So we can get a machine worker to turn out 1,600 items a day 
for $3.00 an hour where in Detroit he's limited to 400 items a day for 
$5.00 an hour;' 4 

Wachovia Bank's former president, Archie Davis, is proud as a 
grandee with North Carolina's labor conditions. "Face it," he says, "the 
greatest advantage we enjoy is Taft-Hartley's 14b. 'Right to work' is the 
greatest attraction industry has to come here." 5 

In 1974 Carolina Power & Light, wanting nothing left to guesswork, 
surveyed 100 companies to find out why they had moved to North 
Carolina. The single greatest advantage listed by the most companies, 56 
of them, was the "quality and quantity of labor supply" in the state. On a 
four-point scale, three of the five assets rating above a "three" were the 
"acceptance of the company by the employee," 3.3; "labor laws," 3.2; 
"labor attitude" (attitude to unions), 3.1. (The CP& L study results were 
kept confidential, shared only with the state government industry- 
hunters. 6 ) Said CP & L's industrial developer, "A non-union labor force 
is an excellent reason for industry to come to North Carolina and that is 
why they do come." 7 

Union organizers and company spokesmen alike cite as the main 
objective reason for North Carolina's low rate of unionization the lack of 
large concentrations of people. It is hard to organize when workers are 
scattered, and when they live close to the soil. Mill hands go to work in 
the factories from their small farms. They maintain their farms so as not 
to be dependent on industrial wages. Shortly before he died in 1974, ex- 
Governor Luther Hodges, a former textile executive, recalled, "The mill 
villages were an outgrowth of plantation life and tenant farming. We 
were out to foster a good trusting relationship between the farmers 
coming into the mills and the companies." 8 Scott Hoyman, southern 
director of the Textile Workers Union of America, agrees with a 
qualification. "The absence of big cities means that there is no real 
working class or, rather, there is a rural working class, and rural workers 
are family-oriented. The workplace is not looked at in business terms but 
in family terms. This was true until recently. But now industry has run 
out of farmboys, and consciousness is beginning to change." 9 

The proletarianization of those "farmboys" through technical educa- 
tion has for 20 years been the first priority of the North Carolina school 
system. For a state that derives much of its progressive reputation from 

142 



Four 

the image of Chapel Hill and Duke University, North Carolina's public 
schools are just about last in nearly every way. The CP & L survey of 
what attracts Northern industy to the state found that the schools were 
considered the biggest disadvantage. 10 "It is impossible to attract sophis- 
ticated industry to an unsophisticated labor force," reported CP & L's 
industry-hunter. "Of course the military bases in the east provide indus- 
try with semi-skilled workers, not readily available elsewhere. But our 
greatest inducement is our community college system which trains 
workers free of charge for new industries." 1 1 

During World War II the concept of the community college gained 
wide acceptance among U.S. educators. With the massive return of GI's, 
community college systems were rapidly developed across the country. 
North Carolina, which needed them most, was slowest to act. 12 The 
state's first junior college was set up in Asheville in 1927 but operated 
until 1949 without a campus of its own, moving from high school 
basements to children's homes or wherever space was available. During 
the war, junior colleges were also established in Charlotte and 
Wilmington. But that was the extent of North Carolina's community 
college system until the late 1950s. 

In 1957, during Governor Hodges' drive to bring industry to the state, a 
system of "industrial education institutes" was agreed upon. The state 
might continue to suffer from intellectual malnutrition, but would no 
longer go without a working class schooled in technical education. A 
network of community colleges and technical institutes was built 
throughout the state. Its purpose was singular: "Equipping the indi- 
viduals with the specific skills and knowledge required by a clearly 
defined job in a particular company. . . . [The program will] open the 
doors of industry to the entire educational services of a community 
college." 13 Some 56 institutions are now in operation; North Carolina's 
taxpayers paid more than $115 million between 1963 and 1970 to train 
workers free of charge for the monopolies. 14 Former Governor Terry 
Sanford said proudly, "We have mobility. An extension unit can be 
established for a class in one or more subjects in a nearby county, as 
needed. There is virtually no limit on the industrial and technical courses 
offered. We tell industrialists we can teach anything. Our courses range 
from bricklaying to poultry technology to welding to practical nurs- 
ing."" 

There are no entrance requirements to the community colleges. If you 
want to work at Burlington Industries as a fabric weaver, just enroll at 
Guilford Technical Institute. Your taxes will pay for your apprentice- 
ship, saving Burlington the cost. The community college system's 1974 

143 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

budget was $65 million, to accommodate an enrollment of 400,000 
students. "And folks can stay on the farms," said community college 
administrator Joe Sturdivant. "About 95 percent of the people in the 
state are within a 25-mile commuter range of a community college." 16 
Official promotional material claimed that "the strategic dispersal of 
these institutions throughout the state insures prompt and efficient 
service, wherever an industry may be located." 17 

The concept of state-monopoly capitalism is seen in bold relief in this 
public school system, paid for by taxes, completely at the disposal of the 
corporations. "A complete customized training package is tailored to the 
particular needs of each company. . . . For valid reasons, the participat- 
ing company may prefer to use some of its own personnel as instructors. 
The State, however, will pay the salaries of all instructors. ... the State 
will reimburse the company for 50 percent of the non-salvageable 
materials expended in the training effort, up to a maximum of $100 for 
each new job. . . . North Carolina's industrial training program makes a 
conscious effort not to infringe on the company's right of selection. 
However, at the company's request, the Employment Security Commis- 
sion will test and screen job candidates. Only those applicants meeting 
the physical and mental criteria established for a particular job will be 
referred to the company for further evaluation." 18 With such a pre- 
disposition, the community college system not unnaturally now offers 
courses in "management development" for company foreman and ad- 
ministrators. The curriculum includes classes in the "Science of Human 
Relations," "Art of Motivating People," "Work Measurement" (wage 
rates, incentives, etc.), "Motion and Time Study," and "Labor Laws for 
Supervisors." 

It is hardly surprising that Charlotte's First National Union Bank 
concludes that "throughout the past century" labor is the main factor in 
drawing industry to North Carolina. "Labor has traditionally been 
plentiful, trainable, willing to work for modest wages and non-union." 
Nowhere in the country is the labor force less unionized. Only 6.8 percent 
of North Carolina's working class is organized. Only South Carolina's 
8.6 percent approximates that low figure. Each year the state ranks as the 
one with the fewest strikes. In 1967 North Carolina lost .04 percent of its 
total estimated working time due to strikes. The average time lost for all 
states was .25 percent. Hardly coincidental is the fact that the state is also 
the lowest in the nation in take-home wages for blue-collar workers. In 
1969, for example, Tarheel workers in manufacturing averaged, before 
taxes, $105.88 per week. And in the major industries, wages were less 
than that worst average in the country. Textile mill workers averaged 

144 



Four 

$99.17 weekly before taxes (in the yarn mills, $94.51); apparel workers, 
$74.97; lumber and wood production, $85.27; furniture, $102.86. These 
industries account for nearly 75 percent of all manufacturing employ- 
ment, and act to constrain wages in other sectors of the economy as 
well. 19 (All figures cited here and elsewhere in the book are from the 
period of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the years that Ben Chavis and his 
co-workers were being politicized and organizing others and the state 
was putting them on trial. The situation has not changed substantially 
since then. In January 1978, for example, the average manufacturing 
wage in North Carolina was $4.18 an hour, 44 cents below the Southern 
average, and $1.60 or nearly 30 percent below the national average.) 

In 1975 a special study on the earnings of North Carolinians by the 
Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North 
Carolina was quashed by the State's Office of Planning, which had 
originally commissioned the study. Small wonder: the state's own schol- 
ars showed that North Carolina, 8th in the country in industrialization, 
was 50th in industrial wages. And the earnings gap is growing: In 1971 the 
Tarheel industrial worker was paid $21.34 per week less than the average 
industrial worker, nationally; in 1975 he was paid $53.57 less. What's 
more, "North Carolina's anti-union stance is a major reason for the 
state's low earned income," and to move up the ladder "the state needs 
more unionization." But while the state's wages lag behind, "profits are 
higher than the national average" in 19 of 22 industrial sectors. 20 

What this means for the corporations is obvious: In 1973, with North 
Carolina workers taking home barely $5,000 a year on the average, value 
added per worker — i.e., corporate profits per worker — averaged more 
than $15,000. That is, North Carolina corporations and banks were 
making three dollars off a worker's labor for each dollar he was paid. 
Moreover, surplus value would increase at a rate of 5.4 percent a year in 
North Carolina, as compared to 4.8 percent for the United States as a 
whole. 21 Furthermore, Black family income in North Carolina is about 
half that of white, awesome evidence of the profitability of racism. 22 With 
such a rate of exploitation available, North Carolina's manufacturing 
employment increased 54.4 percent between 1960 and 1973, compared 
with 18.4 percent for the United States as a whole. 23 Obviously the 
monopolies know there is gold in them there mills. 

Such are the ravages of a "free" economy that the first minimum wage 
law passed in the state— in 1959, 12 years after passage of the "right-to- 
work" law — required wages of at least 75 cents an hour. In 1960 North 
Carolina's per capita income was $666 below the national level. Ten years 
later, the difference had increased to $726. Bank projections for 1980 

145 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

estimate that average wages in the state will reach $6,500, or below 
present national poverty levels. 24 Because textiles and apparel alone 
account for 1.5 million workers or 50 percent of North Carolina's 
working class, wages in this sector determine the economic status of all 
the state's labor. But the 1975 average annual family income of Southern 
textile workers, $6,380, lagged $3,186 or one third below the estimated 
$9,566 needed by an urban family of four to maintain a modest living 
standard, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their 
average hourly wage in 1975 trailed the national factory average by $1.40; 
in 1974 the gap was $1.17. 25 Again, only 15 percent of North Carolina's 
textile workers are in unions. 

It is axiomatic by now that the absence of a strong trade union 
movement guarantees the presence of widespread poverty for working 
people and their families. North Carolina, with its lowest rate of union- 
ization in the country, again proves the axiom: Tarheel workers also have 
the lowest take-home wages in the United States. Although the state is 
highly agricultural, North Carolina has many more industrial workers 
per capita than the country as a whole: In 1973, 40 percent of the state's 
workers were in manufacturing, as compared to 26 percent of all U.S. 
workers. 26 But only 6.8 percent of the state's workers are in unions, while 
the national percentage is 28. 27 Consequently North Carolina workers on 
manufacturing payrolls take home the lowest average weekly earnings in 
the nation, $97.17 in 1970, compared to the statewide average of 
$120.36. 2 « 

Furthermore, in 1965 the most comprehensive study ever made of 
North Carolina's poverty showed that, "In no major N.C. industry did 
wages reach the average level ... for the country as a whole." 29 In July 
Governor Terry Sanford initiated the North Carolina Fund to "experi- 
ment with and demonstrate new approaches to the problem of poverty." 
This proved to be the pilot project for the federal Economic Opportunity 
Act, Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty." With some nine million 
dollars from the Ford Foundation and a couple of R.J. Reynolds family 
funds, the ruling class discovered — hold onto your hat — that working 
folks in the Tarheel state were poor. In fact, "about two families in every 
five meet one of the commonly used definitions of poverty — that of 
$3,000 family income or less." 30 

Moreover, in 1960, 50.6 percent of North Carolina's families had 
incomes under $4,000. The Conference on Economic Progress said that 
one-fifth of the nation lived in poverty in 1959, but in North Carolina 
one-half fell in the poverty bracket. Another 22.2 percent of the state's 
families earned between $4,000 and $6,000, the conference's definition of 

146 



Four 

"economic deprivation." In all, then, 72.8 percent of all North Caroli- 
nians "lived under conditions of poverty or deprivation as defined by the 
Conference, compared with approximately 40 percent for the nation's 
population as a whole." 31 Significantly, virtually all of these families were 
employed. More than 9 out of 10 of these families had working male 
heads of households, with no distinctive difference between white and 
Black families, which supports the assertion that low income, not 
unemployment is responsible for poverty in North Carolina. Actually, 80 
percent of those in the low-income categories were working 40 hours or 
more per week. As an example of what James Baldwin once referred to as 
"democratic anguish" — the suffering of white alongside Black — "nearly 
half of the whites and one out of three non-whites worked more than 40 
hours per week." 32 The latter figure was based on 1965 statistics after a 
decade of the most intensive industrialization in the state's history. After 
five years more of the same, North Carolina's average per capita income 
had risen to $3,218, still well below the poverty line. 33 

Aside from the obvious possibilities for growth in North Carolina, the 
labor movement would appear to have clear self-interest reasons for 
organizing that state and the entire South. Not only is there a direct 
correlation between the absence of strong trade unions and anti-labor 
and reactionary political representation in Washington, but the poverty 
and low wages in the state pose a continuing threat of runaway plants 
from the North, thus driving down Northern wages. That the trade 
unions have for the most part avoided or rejected the challenge speaks to 
the bureaucratic narrow-mindedness and "class-collaboration" of the 
top AFL-CIO national leadership under George Meany. 

The effects of poverty in North Carolina also influence the education 
system in this state that points to Duke and Chapel Hill as its most 
treasured symbols of accomplishment. While North Carolina ranks 
among the highest states in the ratio of expenditures on public education 
to total personal income, that income level is so low that the state ranks 
below the national average in per pupil expenditures and teacher salaries. 
In 1970 the high school drop-out rate was 32.7, nearly one in three. Of 
North Carolinians 25 years or older, 10 percent had completed less than 
five years of school, twice the national average; 45 percent had never 
gotten as far as high school. 34 

Worse still, while only 48 percent of whites over 45 years old finished 
high school, the figure for Blacks was 38 percent. In 1967 the North 
Carolina Fund noted that of every five poor families in the state, "three 
are white and two are non-white." 35 James Baldwin has written, in 
another connection, that, "People are continually pointing out to me the 

147 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

wretchedness of white people in order to console me for the wretchedness 
of Blacks. But an itemized account of the American failure does not 
console me and it should not console anyone else." 36 Small consolation 
indeed are North Carolina poverty figures; the cited study also revealed 
that of every three white families, one lived in poverty, while three out of 
four Black families were so defined. In Robeson County, with the state's 
largest concentration of Indian peoples combined with a large Black 
population, almost 60 percent of all families earned less than $3,000 a 
year. 

That Black workers are the "last hired, first fired" was borne out by the 
new labor force of North Carolina's industrialization campaign under 
Luther Hodges in the 1950s. Most of the jobs created by economic 
growth in that decade were taken by whites, mainly by white women. 
White women obtained over 126,000 jobs, nearly 88 percent of the new 
jobs created between 1950 and 1969. By contrast, non-white workers held 
37,000 fewer jobs in 1960 than in 1950. 37 Even a state government study in 
1973, which tended to minimize the extent of poverty in North Carolina, 
conceded that "approximately 44 percent of the state's non-white popu- 
lation was poor in 1970 compared to only approximately 13 percent of the 
white population." 38 Progress, in this state that considers progress its 
most saleable image, is slow in coming. A 1972 study of Black employ- 
ment in the state's textile industry found less than 2,200 Black managers, 
foremen and skilled women workers in the mills. Black managers were 
only half of one percent of the total managerial force, although Black 
workers totaled nearly a quarter of the labor force in textiles. 39 Nor is 
change coming with even deliberate speed. Still another study — the 
human rights commissioner's alternative to fundamental social change — 
this one of the city of Charlotte, the most populous urban area in the 
Carolinas, finds that Blacks won't be living as well in the year 2000 as 
whites are now: "The chances of Blacks even reaching the 1970 levels for 
whites during the next 25 years are negligible," in this state where Black 
family income is half that of whites. 40 

Working people, Black and white, are driven into further impoverish- 
ment by the state's tax system, directed as are all state laws to favor the 
banks and corporations. A sales and use tax took some $335 million from 
the consumers in the years 1971-2. 41 During the same period, 74.8 percent 
of the net collections from state income taxes came from individuals, 
only 12.7 percent from domestic corporations, a bare 2.3 percent from 
the finance corporations. 42 If the banks were on welfare, the poor were 
virtually excluded from state aid. In 1974 in all of North Carolina, only 
146,000 children and 64,000 social security recipients received welfare 

148 



Four 

That was only 4 percent of the total population obtaining aid to 
dependent children, old-age assistance, and help for the needy blind or 
totally disabled. Neither unemployed workers nor the working poor (a 
majority of the working class) were eligible for welfare. Children were 
eligible only when one of the parents was missing, in which case the child 
received $41 per month in 1974. Thus a mother and four children — a 
family of five — would receive $164 a month, not including food stamps 
and medicaid. 43 

Those who decry the catechism of "welfare chiselers" and "rip-off 
artists" might note that old-age assistance recipients were fewer in 
February 1973— 31,000— than in 1940 when there were 35,000. Average 
monthly payments per recipient amounted to $77.93. Medicaid and 
medical assistance payments are also in decline in North Carolina: In 
February 1971 these expenditures reached $9.36 million, in February 
1973, $7.72 million. 44 

Some years ago former Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson, a 
General Motors executive who might have missed his calling as a 
fortune-cookie philosopher, said of the unemployed and those on wel- 
fare: "I have always liked bird dogs better than kennel dogs. You know, 
ones who will get out and hunt for food rather than sit and yelp." Mr. 
Wilson must smile down from his board room in the sky on North 
Carolina's welfare system which in 1972 served an average of 11,000 
adults a month. That is less than half of one percent of all adult North 
Carolinians being helped in nursing homes, centers for the retarded, 
mental hospitals, etc. 45 Payments for public assistance expended per 
Tarheel resident amounted to $40.98 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 
1971, barely half the national average. By contrast New York, which led 
the country, spent $167.56 per citizen on public assistance. But even the 
deep South led North Carolina: Louisiana, $67.71; Georgia, $65.81; 
Alabama, $65.76; Mississippi, $54.47. 46 

The state is no more generous in spending monies for public health 
departments. For the fiscal year 1972- 3 North Carolina allocated all of 
55 cents per person; combined with federal and local funds, the health 
departments* per capita spending was $4.46. 47 By contrast, the legislature 
budgeted some $55.19 per capita for highway construction and upkeep in 
1970. The results of such a priority of values are predictable: Not much 
has changed for the average Tarheel worker in 50 years when it comes to 
health care. In 1920 the state had 562 dentists, or 22 for every 100,000 
persons; in 1970 there were 1,476 dentists or 30 for every 100,000. 
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges there 
should be at least one doctor for every 571 persons. In 1970 the national 

149 



Nothing Could Be Finer 



average was one per 711. North Carolina had one doctor per 1,063. And 
only 15 hospitals have outpatient clinics in this state of more than five 
million people. 48 

The consequences of a legislature in the service of the banks are more 
than only anti-strike bills aimed at labor. Working people as a whole, 
without the protection of a strong, aggressive trade union movement, are 
victimized in many ways. The division between white and Black work- 
ers — which assures the absence of such a labor movement — works to 
sustain that victimization, hitting Blacks hardest but also hurting whites. 
Infant mortality in North Carolina in 1972 was 22.6 per thousand live 
births; for whites it was 18.2 per thousand live births, for Blacks 32.4 per 
thousand. Between 1968 and 1972 the fetal mortality rate per 1,000 was 
12.8 for whites, and nearly twice that, 23.4, for non-whites. Death rates 
that year were 9.1 per 1,000 North Carolinians. The death rate was 23 
percent higher for non-whites than for whites — 10.6 compared to 8.6 per 
1,000. A non-white child up to four years of age was twice as likely to die 
as a white child of the same age. A non-white adult 23-44 years of age was 
three times as likely to die as the white adult of the same age group. 

Figures for, say, tuberculosis and venereal diseases, both "poverty 
diseases," are telling: 



Thus, non-whites who are about 21.5 percent of the population had 
nearly two-thirds of the TB (or, proportionally, 10 times more TB than 
whites) and 80 percent of the VD (or proportionally 20 times more VD 
than whites). 49 Of North Carolina's legally blind persons, almost 42 
persons are non-white, twice their proportion of the general popula- 
tion. 50 

Those who wax exuberant about the progressivism of North Carolina 
lose some of the gee-whiz quality in their voices when discussing the 
effects of poverty. In North Carolina in 1969, for example, more than 
44,000 families earned a total annual income less than the cost of the 
economic diet alone, i.e., less than $1,200 for a family of four. A state 
Board of Health survey in 1971 found that only a quarter of the families 
eligible for food stamps were participating. The survey also found that 43 
percent of the society's pre-school-age children and 27 percent of all 
households were consuming inadequate diets, deficient in Vitamins A 



1972 



Total 
5,200,388 
1,017 
28,429 



White 
4,041,809 
369 
5,784 



Non-white 
1,185,579 
648 
22,645 



Population 
Reported TB cases 
Reported VD cases 



150 



Four 

and C, iron, calcium and protein. The greatest frequency of inadequate 
diets occurred among non-whites (47 percent compared with 29 percent 
for whites) but even among households reporting income of $9,000 or 
more, virtually all of whom were white, 21 percent had inadequate diets. 
Further, more than 40 percent of Black households in the industrial 
Piedmont and the rural east had substandard food preparation facilities, 
compared with only 3 percent of white households. 51 Nearly 14.3 percent 
of all housing units lacked some or all plumbing facilities. The national 
average was 6 percent. In North Carolina 38.6 percent of the Black 
population lacked some or all plumbing facilities. 52 Such were the social 
facts of New Southern life that Ben Chavis and his co-workers sought to 
change. 



It is perhaps sufficient commentary on New Southern justice to note 
that the brief formative years in which Ben and Jim Grant and T.J. 
Reddy came to positions of community leadership by organizing against 
war and for equal education witnessed a parallel development of criminal 
aptitude in Walter David Washington and Theodore Alfred Hood. The 
governments of North Carolina and the United States, in their zeal to 
persecute the community leadership, chose to embrace the criminals. 

There is some evidence to suggest that Washington and Hood may 
have been operating as police agents as far back as 1967 when they set up 
a Black Cultural Association in a separate Charlotte neighborhood than 
that in which Ben's Black House stood. That the two informers formed a 
group called US, which in other parts of the country was clearly an arm 
of the police, at a time when the Black Panther Organization was 
organized in Charlotte, lends substance to this suggestion. As does their 
driving a carload of dynamite into a police roadblock at a time of racial 
tensions in Oxford. Nobody would ever accuse Washington and Hood of 
being brilliant master criminals, but such an act suggests an incompe- 
tence roughly on a level of being unable to catch water with a sponge. 
Leaving the country on the day of their trial, then returning immediately 
to Charlotte to surrender, and then escaping all prosecution in return for 
testifying against Ben and Jim and the Charlotte Three seemed to be 
some of the fanciest footwork since Gene Kelly was singing in the rain. 

These two agents in the service of the government merit some exam- 
ination. Washington's first conviction came in 1959 when he was twelve 
and was arrested for breaking and entering and larceny. Before his 
teenage years were over, he added new convictions for damage to 

151 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

property, assault and assault with a deadly weapon. In 1967 Washington 
received a medical discharge from the Marine Corps after half a year in 
Vietnam. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, he was declared 100 percent 
mentally disabled after trying to shoot his first sergeant. Since 1968 he 
has been receiving total disability payments from the U.S. government. 

Washington pleaded guilty to armed robbery charges in August 1969, 
received a 20-25-year suspended sentence and was ordered to seek 
psychiatric help, keep a curfew between 8 pm and 5 am for five years, and 
abstain from all intoxicants. When he was arrested in Oxford on the 
explosives charges in 1970, Washington was in violation of that proba- 
tion. When he came to court for the probation violation hearing in May 
1971, he brought along District Attorney Tom Moore, who was to 
prosecute the Lazy B case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Long, 
who prosecuted the Chavis-Grant federal case. Judge Robert Martin, 
who had presided over the trial of the Teels, the Oxford Klansmen who 
were acquitted for the murder of Henry Lee Marrow (and who would 
later act as judge in the Wilmington 10 trial), heard the appeal for 
Washington's continued probation. Martin agreed not only not to 
withdraw probation from Washington but also to drop all the conditions 
of that probation — reporting to probation officers, the payment of fines, 
curfews, etc. Martin acknowledged that Washington had violated all the 
terms of his probation but said they were not serious violations. A 
Charlotte Three appeals hearing in December 1974 disclosed that at the 
time of Washington's testimony against Ben and Jim in the federal case 
and in the Lazy B trial, the informer was a suspect under investigation for 
five separate Mecklenburg County murders. This fact was never dis- 
closed to the defense attorneys. Washington was never charged with any 
of the murders. 

Al Hood grew up and went to school with Washington and became his 
partner in crime. Before the Oxford dynamite arrest, Hood had been 
convicted of auto theft, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, 
carrying a concealed weapon and assault on an officer. At the time of the 
Oxford bust, he was facing charges of armed robbery and of carrying a 
concealed weapon, as well as various probation violations. For his 
"work" on the Chavis-Grant and Charlotte Three trials, his $165,000 
bond was reduced to $50,000 and then to a recognizance bond. All 
pending charges against Hood, including those unrelated to the Oxford 
incident, were dropped. Together, Hood and Washington had nearly 100 
years in prison sentences facing them, all of which were wiped clean for 
their services to the prosecutors' offices. One could say of them, as 
William Powell's Nick Charles said in The Thin Man, "I don't like 



152 



Four 

crooks, and if I did like crooks I wouldn't like crooks who are also 
stoolpigeons, and if 1 did like crooks who are also stoolpigeons, I 
wouldn't like you." 

The suspicion that Hood and Washington may have peen police agents 
all along is given further credence by their seeming immunity to prosecu- 
tion as their life of crime continued unabated even after the Charlotte 
Three trial. On August 31, 1972, a month after that trial, Hood was 
charged with narcotics possession and murder in the killing of a heroin 
dealer while contesting control of the Charlotte area drug traffic. He has 
never been brought to trial, remaining free on his own recognizance. 
Four months later, on January 30, 1974, Washington entered a Charlotte 
hospital with gunshot wounds in his heart and lungs. Two weeks after 
that he was allowed to leave the hospital without ever having to explain 
the details of the shooting, although the press speculated that it was in 
retaliation for giving information regarding an armed robbery case to 
police. Washington was in violation of his probation restrictions at the 
time, as he had been for at least the previous five years. A few months 
later he was back in Mercy hospital after shooting and being shot by a 
store owner whom Washington was either robbing or enforcing a 
syndicate policy upon. The police questioned him this time around, but 
again he was released with the shooting going unexplained. 

The old adage that holds that crime doesn't pay never took into 
account the enterprising Hood and Washington. In the spring of 1974 the 
Charlotte Observer reported that the two hoodlums received a minimum 
of $4,000 each from the U.S. Justice and Treasury departments for their 
testimony against Ben and Jim in the federal trial. The payments were 
approved by the now convicted Watergate criminal Robert Mardian, 
acting on behalf of the now convicted Watergate criminal John Mitchell. 
The Justice Department alone paid out $3,000 each to Hood and 
Washington as "relocation fees" to buy a ranch in Mexico after the Lazy 
B trial. The $1,000 paid to each of the two informers by the Treasury 
Department were described alternately as "reward" payments and "in- 
formants' fees." Ironically, the last $1,000 payments were made by federal 
agents at a time the state had an arrest warrant out on Washington for 
probation violations. "Washington," reported the Observer on March 
24, 1974, "had been cooperating with the FBI ever since the Oxford 
arrest" — that is, even during the "flight" to Canada to avoid prosecution 
which Ben and Jim were alleged to have conspired to aid — and had 
"arranged through his attorney" to be arrested three months later on 
December 27, 1970. 

The amounts of U.S. tax dollars paid to Hood and Washington have 

153 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

not been fully verified. While the Justice and Treasury departments claim 
that they "were only able to find records showing payments of $4,000 for 
each man, 11 an attorney who handled the negotiations insists they 
received about $15,000 each. The Observer reported, however, that 
"Three North Carolina law enforcement officers closely acquainted with 
Washington, say that in [1973] Washington has bragged to them that he 
received additional money. He gave each officer a different figure, 
ranging from $38,000 to $70,000. The officers all say they are inclined to 
believe him." It is known that in addition to the $8,000 paid the two as 
"rewards" and "informants' fees," $13,837.32 was given them for airline 
tickets and to house them and their families at an Atlantic Beach, N.C., 
resort for three months. Treasury Department requests for "expenditure 
of funds for purchase of evidence" were later made public. The Treasury 
requests were made by Stanley Noel, the agent who had monitored Ben's 
and Jim's anti-war activities in Charlotte for years, who had broken into 
Ben's house during his student years, and who had coordinated both the 
federal and the Lazy B cases for the government. The testimony of Hood 
and Washington was virtually the only evidence ever marshalled in court 
against the civil rights activists. 

Twenty years ago H oily wood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, writing of 
other political trials— those of the Communist Party leaders during the 
days of the Smith Act— described the role of police spies: 

No one will seriously question that they stood in relation to the FBI as 
employees stand in relation to a boss. A cook will prepare horsemeat or beef 
as the restaurateur requests; a carpenter will build a house as solid or flimsy as 
the contractor demands; a stenographer will type truth or fiction as his 
employer requires; and if any one of them fails to produce what is wanted, he 
will be discharged and his income will cease. The openly stated hostility of the 
FBI to the Communist Party justifies doubt that it would pay spies to secure 
information favorable to that organization. Indeed, it would not stretch 
credibility to suggest that the FBI requested damaging information about the 
Communist Party, and that any spy who failed to secure it would lose all value 
to his employer and quickly be separated from the payroll. The temptation to 
insure continued income by producing what is desired seems too obvious to 
belabor. . . . 

Many of the witnesses employed by the prosecution earn their living 
exclusively by testifying in political trials. If such trials stopped altogether, 
they would be out of work. They have no other occupation. Others who had 
not achieved a professional status nevertheless lived at government expense 
and were, in addition, paid substantial fees for their testimony. Their testi- 
mony was not, therefore, a disinterested act of citizenship; it was a commodity 

154 



Four 

for which money had to be paid. The government wanted to buy testimony 
and the witnesses had it to sell and a deal was consummated between them. 

Over strenuous objections by the prosecution, which viewed the whole 
matter as a morbid intrusion into areas too sensitive for public scrutiny, the 
government was obliged to reveal the precise sum it had paid to its covin of 
witnesses. The sum . . . reveals how cheaply an American citizen can be 
deprived of his liberty. (The Time of the Toad: A Study of Inquisition in 
America, New York, Harper & Row, 1972, pp. 88, 90.) 

If we substitute the words "North Carolina civil rights movement" for 
"Communist Party" and "Robert Mardian's Justice Department and 
Stanley Noel's Treasury Department" for "FBI," we have precisely the 
role of Hood and Washington in the Chavis-Grant federal trial and 
Charlotte Three case. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Long, who prosecuted the federal trial, 
said that once Mardian and other Justice Department officials became 
aware of the case, they "were more interested in this case than in any 
others I prosecuted. . . . They had copies of all documents in their files in 
Washington and that was unusual." U.S. Attorney Warren Coolidge said 
that the monies paid to Hood and Washington were the only instance of 
assistance to federal witnesses in North Carolina granted during his four- 
year tenure. Throughout the Charlotte Three trial months later, the 
Observer reported, "Federal agents kept in close touch with the state 
case." One agent said within earshot of Judge Snepp on the last day of the 
trial, "There's an assistant attorney general in Washington waiting to 
hear what happened in this case." The only assistant attorney general in 
Washington that had kept on top of the prosecution from its inception 
was Robert Mardian. In keeping with the temper and thrust of Mardian's 
Intelligence Evaluation Committee and the FBI's Cointelpro operation, 
all federal secret memos regarding payoffs to Hood and Washington 
referred to Ben and Jim as "known Black militants" or "two of the top 
militant leaders in the State of North Carolina," 



S hall we pursue programs that would result in mixing the genes of the 
Negro race with those of the White race and so convert the population of 
the United States into a mixed-blooded people?" This was the burning 
question that so concerned Professor Wesley Critz George in 1962. The 
"programs" that were worrying this former head of the Department of 
Anatomy at the University of North Carolina Medical School, were 
court orders for school desegegation. 53 

155 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

This doctor of humane letters, department head at that New South 
showcase university, wrote like a hophead in sheets as he catalogued in 
the name of science virtually every crackpot myth of white racial 
superiority. Black people are "highly emotionar and "readily goaded by 
irresponsible leaders into violence." If mixed with whites, they "seem 
destined to bring about deterioration in the quality of our genetic pool." 
George examined "frontal lobes," "brain weight," "bone density" and a 
sorcerer's brew of other standards and measures for gauging white 
supremacy. The key test, however, the scale of scales, was the IQ test. 
"Some of us know Negroes who are intelligent, industrious, thrifty and 
dependable; but these are not qualities that characterize large numbers of 
the race. . . . Indolence, improvidence and consequent pauperism are 
qualities commonly ascribed to them." 54 Hence the classical argument 
for apartheid or even extermination: People of color are biologically 
different, those differences are far more than skin deep, "those people" 
are mentally inferior, racism is not ideological madness but rather an 
objective assessment of reality. 

Worse, Black biological inferiority results in behavioral and moral 
inferiority. If "pauperism" is a natural quality of Blacks, so too is the 
"criminal instinct." A proportionally greater number of arrests of Blacks 
than of whites, wrote the good doctor, "seems to bear some relation to 
differences in personality and behaviorial characteristics of the two 
races. Among both ordinary citizens and psychiatrists one encounters 
the oft-expressed judgement that Negroes, both in this country and in 
Africa, exhibit a more unrestrained emotional life and lack of self- 
discipline than whites, and it is well known that the rate of arrest and 
conviction for crimes is much higher among Negroes." 55 

While only the occasional Shockley will utter such yesteryear ravings 
these days, the arguments of Dr. George remain the ideological under- 
pinnings of North Carolina's — and the nation's — criminal justice system. 
Black people, by their nature, are "the criminal element." Not victims of 
deprivation and discrimination, they are as Dr. George argued, "indo- 
lent" and "improvident." "The same qualities exist among some whites," 
concedes the professor, "but the incidence is much higher among 
Negroes." 56 

Racist pseudoscience has, in much of the country, given up the IQ 
ghost as an argument for white supremacy. North Carolina remains a 
throwback enclave. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled a few years ago in 
Griggs et al. vs. Duke Power Co., that 13 Black workers had been 
wrongly eliminated from better jobs through the manipulation of intel- 
ligence testing. The court decided that any testing is unlawful unless it 

156 



Four 

clearly gauges the necessary skills for a particular job. 57 With IQs on the 
defensive in the courts and in science, the same arguments are being 
forwarded in new forms; the old "mental defective" beans have been 
refried, to be served up as "learning disability." 

The qualities that make for learning disabilities are essentially the 
same ones that North Carolina's eugenic laws have always used as the 
rationale for sterilization and castration, i.e., low IQ at an early age, the 
indication of life-long "mental defectiveness." 

North Carolina's Eugenics Board was set up in 1938 during a period of 
great industrial expansion. In introducing the statutes for sterilization 
and experiments on the reproductive organs of working folk in the state, 
the Eugenics Board argued in an epigraph: "If recognized as an integral 
part of a broad system of protection and supervision of those unable to 
meet unaided the responsibilities of citizenship in a highly competitive 
industrial system, it can be productive only of good. " 58 (Author's 
emphasis.) 

The board's secretary defined sterilization as "a means adopted by 
organized society to do for the human race in a humane manner what was 
done by Nature before modern civilization, human sympathy and charity 
intervened in Nature's plans." Referring to Sir Francis Galton, who 
developed the pseudoscience of eugenics in the late nineteenth century, 
North Carolina's sterilization pioneer said that several "methods of 
limiting or decreasing breeding among the undesirable human stocks 
have been advocated" by Galton's followers. "Among them are segrega- 
tion of the unfit; restrictive marriage laws; birth control; eugenic educa- 
tion; and human sterilization." 59 For any who might miss the point, the 
state's leading advocate of eugenics quoted from the German Steriliza- 
tion Statute of the time (the time, for those who lack historical perspec- 
tive, is that of the Third Reich): "I. Whoever is afflicted with a hereditary 
disease can be sterilized by a surgical operation, if— according to the 
experience of medical science — there is a great probability that his 
descendants will suffer from serious bodily or mental defects. Hereditary 
diseases under this law are: 1) Hereditary feeble-mindedness; 2) Schizo- 
phrenia; 3) Manic depressive insanity; 4) Hereditary epilepsy; 5) Hunt- 
ington's Chorea; 6) Hereditary blindness; 7) Hereditary deafness; 8) 
Serious hereditary bodily deformities. 11. Furthermore those suffering 
from alcoholism can be sterilized." 60 

Lest there be doubts or curiosity about just what sorts of folks fall into 
these "hereditary" categories, the Eugenics Board conducted "A Study 
Relating to Mental Illness, Mental Deficiency, and Epilepsy in a Selected 
Rural County." 61 Listing the "potential mentally ill, mentally deficient 

157 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

and epileptic" (author's emphasis) by occupation, these potentially 
castrated or sterilized subjects were farm laborers, saw mill laborers, 
other laborers, textile workers, janitorial and other service workers, farm 
tenants, vehicle drivers, aircraft or munitions factory workers, furniture 
factory workers. 62 That's all. Only "other" and "none" were also listed. 
No banker's son or daughter could suffer from alcoholism or epilepsy 
only to face the surgeon's scalpel or the gynecologist's knot. 

A look at the Eugenics Board statistics for the period 1954 to 1968, the 
years of the civil rights upsurge from the Supreme Court decision on 
school desegregation to the assassination of Martin Luther King, indi- 
cates that racism quickly supplanted the class bias inherent in the 
"science" of eugenics. A sharp increase in male supremacy, already 
deeply imbedded in eugenics, is apparent as sterilization of men virtually 
ended: 63 



Years 

1954-5 

1956-7 

1958-9 

1960-1 

1962-3 

1964-5 

1966-8' 



Number 

of 
Opera- 
tions 

556 

562 

535 

467 

507 

356 

290 



Subjects 

under 
20 Years* 

214 

189 

151 

146 

157 

166 

162 



Male 
131 

77 

43 

14 

14 
6 



Female 
425 
485 
492 
439 
493 
350 
287 



Black 
198 
274 
315 
284 
323 
228 
188 



White 
357 
284 
209 
179 
170 
124 
96 



♦Under 20 means 10-19 years old. 
**The 1967 state legislature removed epilepsy as one of the conditions for 
sterilization. 

*** Between 1969 and 1973 the Eugenics Board performed 358 more steriliza- 
tions, but no longer recorded the subjects' sex and color. In 1975 a new law took 
effect transferring authorization to order sterilization from the Eugenics Board 
to local district judges. 



In recent years most of the "eugenics" sterilizations were conducted on 
adolescent Black women. Consent of the individual to be sterilized is not 
necessary but is considered helpful, according to the Eugenics Board's 
1972 "General Decision Making Criteria." Most of those sterilized were 
declared "mentally defective," a category to fit those "with an I.Q. of 55," 
according to former Eugenics Board executive secretary June Stallings. 

158 



Four 

How then explain the apparent mental defectiveness in such great 
numbers among Blacks as compared to whites — a ratio of 10 to 1 in the 
past 20 years? Poverty, says Ms. Stallings: "Scientific research shows that 
infants with improper diets become retarded." 64 

But the Eugenics Board's own statistics show a clear class, racial and 
sexual bias. Indeed the notion of "eugenics" is scientifically akin to the 
ideas that Communists eat babies and Jews have horns. The poor are 
impoverished because that is their nature, the class structure of society is 
"natural," things are as they were meant to be, that's human nature. 65 
Black people, particularly Black women, are disproportionately and 
increasingly "mentally defective," a condition that results from their 
impoverishment, which will not change. Attempts to change this natural 
state of being are the efforts only of outside forces, "agitators" in 
policemen's jargon. The political institutionalization of these ideas is 
fascism, writes Herbert Aptheker. "Its main propaganda device is ra- 
cism. The ultimate logic of this are crematoria; people themselves 
constituting the pollution and inferior people in particular, then cre- 
matoria become really vast sewerage projects." 66 (When the United 
Nations convention on genocide was adopted in 1948, the fourth act of 
five constituting genocide was listed as "imposing measures intended to 
prevent births within the group.") 

What is so unsettling about June Stalling's replies is that she sits, snug 
as a child in a mackinaw, reducing questions of life and death to 
banalities. Her response is on a par with the woman who helped oversee 
lebensborn, Hitler's attempt to create "a thousand year Reich" by 
breeding young German women with oval faces, blond hair and blue 
eyes, narrow noses and thin mouths, with SS officers of similar features, 
to arrive at a virtual pedigreed Aryan. Thirty years after the fall of the 
Third Reich, this woman recalled that lebensborn only provided homes 
for unwed mothers, that the emphasis on Aryan types was, you know, 
just a question of fashion. Some ages prefer blonds, others brunettes. 67 
Dr. William B. Shockley, who has become something of a circuit rider in 
the cause of eugenics and a homegrown variety of lebensborn, is more 
candid. The future is threatened, Shockley argues, by dysgenics, defined 
as "retrogressive evolution through the disproportionate reproduction of 
the genetically disadvantaged. Or, down-breeding." The doctor suggests 
bonus payments be offered "to persons with low IQs who undergo 
voluntary sterilization." 68 

Even with its ring of scientific basis, "behavior modification" is still 
another way of linking "criminal behavior" to mental disorders. 



159 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Strange and mysterious indeed are the numerous ways it works its 
wonders to perform. Behavior modification has been defined by one 
psychologist as "the unethical utilization of any form of electrotherapy, 
chemotherapy, psychosurgery, psychotherapy, aversive therapy, re- 
wards-and-punishment or other means or devices to alter the mood, 
behavior, personality or psychic state of an individual or a group." Tom 
Wicker writes that, "Nothing arouses the fears of prison inmates more 
than so-called 'behavior modification' programs, and no wonder. Be- 
havior modification is a catch-all term that can mean anything from 
brain surgery to a kind of 'Clockwork Orange' mental conditioning; it 
usually includes drug experimentation, and in all too many cases it is 
aimed more nearly at producing docile prisoners than upright citizens." 69 

The Gideon for most behavior modifiers is B. F. Skinner's Beyond 
Freedom and Dignity, the thrust of which is based on the curious 
proposition that "housing is a matter not only of buildings and cities but 
of how people live. Overcrowding can be corrected only by inducing 
people not to crowd." 70 This suggestion is not too far distant from that 
which holds that the napalm victim is in part to blame for being in the 
wrong place at the wrong time. Further, we needn't ban napalm but must 
teach the victim to submit to the will of the bomber. As for Skinner's 
"overcrowding" example, three of his disciples, Dr. Frank Ervin, Vernon 
Mark and William Sweet, bring his thoughts to their logical conclusion 
in a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association. The letter 
came in the wake of the Detroit ghetto rebellion in 1967, entitled "Role of 
Brain Disease in Riots and Urban Violence," and urged "diagnosing the 
many violent slum dwellers who have some brain pathology and treating 
them" [with brain surgery]. 71 

Skinner himself sees in his "behaviorally engineered society" the 
control of the population in the hands of specialists, "police, priests, 
owners, teachers, therapists and so on." 72 Behaviorist James V. McCon- 
nell of the University of Michigan rubs his hands in gleeful anticipation: 
"I believe the day has come when we can combine sensory deprivation 
with drugs, hypnosis and astute manipulation of reward and punishment 
to gain almost absolute control over an individual's behavior." Preempt- 
ing argument, the good doctor says, "There is no reason to believe you 
should have the right to refuse to acquire a new [personality] if the old 
one is anti-social." 73 

The key is, who is "anti-social" and again for the Skinnerist it is the 
napalm victim not the napalm bomber or manufacturer. UCLA's Center 
for the Study and Reduction of Violence conducted a study of "the 

160 



Four 



family structure and unrest among the poor" in order to establish 
"models designed to control the activities of individuals and groups, 
including rioters." The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration 
admits to some 400 behavior modification projects in 1974 alone, 
including a $130,000 grant to the University of Puerto Rico for "neu- 
rological research into the correlations between criminal behavior and 
brain damage," 74 although the Justice Department didn't suggest that 
Watergate resulted from mental retardation in the Oval Office. 

Mr. Nixon's personal physician, Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker, proposed 
in 1970 the psychological testing of children under the age of nine to 
determine which were "criminally inclined," those with "violent tenden- 
cies" to be placed in special camps. This camp would be an alternative to 
slum reconstruction; in Dr. Hutschnecker's words, "a direct, immediate, 
effective way of attacking the problem at its very origin, by focusing on 
the criminal mind of the child." 75 Such testing now takes place in the 
hundreds of penitentiaries across the United States housing the largest 
prison population in the world, more so in North Carolina than in any 
other state. That testing, called behavior modification, has not yet been 
applied en masse to children but to their incarcerated elders, while the 
National Institute of Mental Health— part of the Department of Health, 
Education and Welfare — is funding several behavior modification pro- 
grams for juveniles. Seven of the doctors tried at Nuremberg were 
hanged for experiments carried out on prisoners, but international law 
apparently does not pertain to those incarcerated in U.S. prisons and 
jails who are tested with a variety of toxins and diseases, subjected to 
electroshock and lobotomies, induced to take a host of chemicals and 
drugs, all for the greater good of research in controlling human behavior. 



/~\fter being found not guilty in the federal case with Jim Grant, Rev. 
Chavis was returned to prison to await the Wilmington 10 trial. During 
the trial with Jim, Ben occupied a cell in the Wake County Jail in 
Raleigh. Now, after a few days in the New Hanover County Jail in 
Wilmington, he was moved to Raleigh again, this time to the decrepit 
Central Prison. The absurdity of being in a maximum security prison 
while legally innocent and awaiting trial was matched by the cruelty of 
his surroundings. 

About a quarter of the state's imprisoned felons are held at Central 
Prison, the state's only maximum security unit. Construction on the 
prison began in 1869 and still continues. As the rings of a redwood trunk 




161 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

reveal its history to the practiced eye, you can tell Central's history by the 
age of each additional building. A mental hospital is the latest structure. 
The foreboding red-brick prison, with all the attraction of a lanced boil, 
was built on the outskirts of Raleigh, but in the century since it was 
completed, the town has spread out, placing the complex right in the 
center of the modern capital city. 

The main unit was designed to hold 500 men but has housed twice as 
many. In the "maxi-maxi" I and J wings and the west wing where the 
boredom is relieved only by the tedium, the 500 prisoners stay in their 
cells 24 hours a day except for meals and minimal recreation. In 1968 a 
prison rebellion ended in seven prisoner deaths and dozens of wounded, 
the worst violence visited upon prisoners in the country until Attica in 
1971. In charge of restoring the authority of the prison administration 
was Sam Garrison, who is now warden at Central. 

From the moment the slight 24-year-old Rev. Chavis walked through 
the gate, he was treated by the guards as "Big Bad Ben," a threat to their 
authority. Just before he arrived, a couple of inmates were brutally 
beaten and sent to the prison hospital for refusing to cut their "natural 1 ' 
hairdos. Ben's reputation preceded him with the other prisoners as well 
as with the guards. Some inmates approached Ben for help. Together 
they drafted and filed suits in federal court against the Department of 
Corrections, alleging discrimination against Blacks for banning "natu- 
rals." Though the suit was eventually withdrawn, prison policy changed 
and Ben himself was never asked to cut his hair. 

Also being held in Ben's wing was Joe Waddell, a section leader of the 
Black Panther Party in Winston-Salem. Joe Waddell was only 20 years 
old and, like many young Panther members, enthusiastic about the 
Party. He would shout out the "10-point Program" of the Panthers, even 
during the evening "quiet hours." Such behavior was not calculated to 
win him a large following among the prison officials. It was known 
throughout the prison that some guards were laying for Joe Waddell. 
One day in early May, Ben, Joe and the other E-Block inmates returned 
to their cells from the recreation yard. It would be the last time that Ben 
and the other prisoners ever saw Joe Waddell. The authorities claim that 
he collapsed upon returning to his cell and was taken to the prison 
hospital where he was pronounced dead. The 20-year-old's death was 
attributed to a heart attack by the prison officials, but none of the 
inmates observed any signs of ill health during the recreation period. In 
any case, an autopsy to determine certain cause of death became 
impossible when the prison authorities removed all of Waddell's internal 
organs and bequeathed them to one of the nearby state hospitals for 
general experimental purposes. 



162 



Four 

May 26, 1972, was the first African Liberation Day celebrated in the 
United States and Ben was determined that Central Prison should not go 
without its commemoration. His leadership of the civil rights movement 
on the outside made him de facto a leader of the prisoners, who were 
becoming politically conscious throughout the country. Inmates from 
the other 7 1 prison units in the state, including the women's prison, wrote 
to him at Central. Using a post-office box in Raleigh and employing the 
services of a secretary at the Commission for Racial Justice, he began to 
organize the United Black Prisoners Freedom Movement. Because the 
only privileges allowed the prisoners at Central were eating and sleeping, 
the Black inmates agreed to forego the former as an act of solidarity, and 
held a one-day hunger strike on the first African Liberation Day the 
North Carolina Department of Corrections had ever seen. 

Nine days later Rev. Chavis was transferred to the Pender County Jail 
in Burgaw. Local officials acknowledged that a fair trial in Wilmington 
for the Wilmington 10 was out of the question, so the trial was moved to 
adjoining rural, and predominantly Black, Pender County. Judge 
Joshua S. James was selected to preside. Attorney James Ferguson was 
again at the defense table. The prosecution was to be handled by James 
Stroud, a young assistant solicitor from Wilmington known for his 
sarcasm and prosecutorial zeal. The Klan-influenced Hanover Sun in a 
commentary under the banner headline "Here's to Jay Stroud'' was to 
call the prosecutor, "One of the finest things that ever happened to the 
cause of law and order and justice in this area." 

During pretrial motions the defendants moved for production of the 
evidence and disclosure of the witnesses against them; to quash the 
indictments based on the race and class bias of the grand jury; to 
sequester prospective jurors during the questioning period preceding 
jury selection; to disclose evidence favorable to the defense. Judge James 
denied each motion except the disclosure motions, which he granted in 
part. When jury selection proceeded as scheduled, a trial jury of ten 
Blacks and two whites was chosen. That was on Friday, June 9; opening 
arguments were to be heard on Monday. But Monday morning the 
prosecution moved for a mistrial because Jay Stroud was said to be 
suffering from a stomach ache or "intestinal flu," although the defen- 
dants agreed unanimously that the racial composition of the jury influ- 
enced Stroud's stomach more than any bug. Judge James acceded to the 
prosecution, announced a mistrial and dismissed the jury. A new trial 
was ordered for September. 

With three more months to the new trial date, bond was reduced to 
$15,000 for Ben, $7,000 or $8,000 for the others. At the end of June they 

163 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

were released on bond. The movement was in disarray after months of 
incarceration of its leadership. Ben and the other defendants went back 
into the community to begin to rebuild. Ben returned to Raleigh briefly 
to organize a rally in solidarity with the inmates at Central Prison, 
protesting the macabre conditions from which he had recently emerged 
and in which more than a thousand remained. On July 22, the day of the 
demonstration, under orders of state Prisons Commissioner Lee 
Bounds, every prisoner at Central was placed in lockup. Machine guns 
were mounted ori the walls of the prison and aimed at the streets outside. 
Orders were given to the guards to shoot any outsider who came within 
150 yards of the prison. "We are aware," Bounds later told the press, "that 
this sort of thing (the rally) could adversely affect our operations here, so 
we were ready. We took such measures as I thought were necessary." 
Among Bounds* operations that might be adversely affected was the last 
remaining highway labor chain gang in the country. 

In subsequent testimony before a hearing of the North Carolina 
Criminal Justice Task Force, Rev. Chavis reported that in Central 
Prison the prison guards regularly hosed down prisoners and their 
belongings with high-pressure fire hoses; and that the prison had erected 
an "animal cage," a two-by-six-foot wire mesh corridor from the cell- 
block to the cafeteria through which prisoners must walk "while young 
white guards are constantly picking at prisoners and harassing them." 
Governor Bob Scott's appointed secretary of the Department of Re- 
habilitation, George Randall, said he would not debate "with a man who 
doesn't know the facts about Central Prison." 

But Bounds admitted that the fire hoses were used, although "only for 
control," not punishment. Bounds took credit for introducing the "ani- 
mal cage," again as an advanced method of control. Of Bounds it can be 
said, as Saki wrote of Bernard Shaw, "He had discovered himself and 
gave ungrudgingly of his discovery to the world." Bounds did take issue 
with Rev. Chavis on one point: "The impact of the conditions of our 
prison system," argued the vexed Mr. Bounds, "rests evenly on whites 
and Blacks." 

In August Ben had to return to Portsmouth to stand trial for the 
charges growing out of his January arrest — running a stop sign, failing to 
show a car registration card, disruption of public schools. When Ben 
showed that he had not been driving the car at the time of arrest, the 
traffic charges were dropped. But the court pursued the disruption of the 
schools charge. The magistrate, referring to Ben as a "trespassing pied 
piper," found him guilty and sentenced him to a year in prison and a 
$2,000 fine. Early the next year Ben would appeal the decision to a 

164 



Four 

Hustlings Court, where a jury would reverse the decision and find him 
not guilty. But for the next few months he would temporarily have his 
first conviction. 

If the North Carolina civil rights movement had been set back by the 
arrests and prosecution of its leadership, the same could not be said of 
Leroy Gibson's Rights of White People, which continued to flower in the 
eastern part of the state. With Rev. Chavis back on the streets, ROWP 
had its number one enemy at large again. Ben began to get telephone 
threats at his home in Oxford and at the Commission office in Raleigh. 
State law enforcement intelligence agents approached him to say they 
had information that a group of Wilmington businessmen, upset over the 
loss of millions of dollars and new investments, had put out a $10,000 
contract on his life. The agents were at a loss for an answer when Ben 
asked why they weren't arresting these businessmen for conspiracy to 
murder, but they warned Ben against returning to Wilmington. 

On August 31 Ben had to be in Wilmington to consult with his co- 
defendants. That evening he returned to Raleigh to work on some papers 
at the Commission office in preparation for the upcoming Wilmington 10 
trial. Arriving in the capital city at 10:30 p.m., Rev. Chavis went to his 
office in the downtown Odd Fellows building. Around I a.m. he came 
back downstairs, got into his car and headed for home. After driving for 
three blocks, he saw a blue flame, like an acetalyne torch coming from 
under the front seat. He braked the car, opened the door and jumped out. 
The whole interior of the car burst into flames, which enveloped the 
entire vehicle in a minute's time. An incendiary explosion knocked out 
the windows and threw Ben back. An ambulance came and rushed him to 
the hospital with first-, second- and third-degree burns on his right arm. 
Meanwhile, the remains of the car were taken to the Raleigh police 
garage. The city police announced they were turning the investigation 
over to the SB1. The SBI in turn passed the case on to the FBI, who 
turned it over to the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco 
and Firearms. Stanley Noel, who organized the prosecution of Ben and 
Jim and the Charlotte Three, was put in charge of the investigation. 
Apparently the ATF hit a snag in this investigation, for no report was 
ever released, let alone a prosecution developed. The local police, SBI 
and FBI also remained silent. 



165 



Five 

Law! What do I care about the law? Hain't I got the 

Cornelius Vanderbilt 

"Shut up, " he explained. 

Ring Lardner 



power? 



N 

JL ^ orth Carolina's prison system is a hundred years ahead at being 
behind. With only five million people in the entire state, there are 77 state 
prisons, the most of any state in the country. Upwards of 14,000 inmates 
crowd the various units, the highest per capita prison population in the 
United States. New York, for example, a state with four times the 
number of people, has 15,000 prisoners or 7 percent more than North 
Carolina. The U.S. Justice Department listed the Tarheel state as having 
the highest number of inmates per 100,000 population — 183 — at the end 
of 1973. North Dakota with the lowest ratio had 28 inmates per 100,000 
population. In the years since that report, North Carolina has consoli- 
dated its hold on its leading position in institutionalized repression, 
jailing more of its people than any other state, and jailing them for longer 
terms. 1 

If the country as a whole had North Carolina's ratio, there would be 
more than//w million prisoners in the United States. Disturbing as is the 
overall figure, things are much worse for young people, and for Blacks 
and Indians. In 1974, almost 42 percent of the state's prisoners were 
under 25 years old. The ratio per 100,000 North Carolinians of, for 
example, 24 years of age, was 830, more than four times the statewide 
total that leads the nation. For Black men the ratio was 1,040 per 100,000, 
or five and a half times the general total. Thus, more than one percent of 
all Black men in North Carolina are imprisoned. 2 In addition, more than 
16,000 North Carolinians (surpassing the total prison population) enter 
county and city jails each month. 3 

As the state shoe-horns several thousand additional new inmates into 
its prisons which contain only 10,000 beds, the Raleigh Archipelago has 
become a hell without fire. Four and a half thousand prisoners have no 
beds. In 1974, 650 prisoners under 18, some as young as 14, were mixed in 
the general prison population. 4 State corrections officials have proposed 
the construction of an additional four prisons to house another 3,000 
inmates. Official state estimates are that by 1983, the shortage of beds for 
medium-custody inmates alone will be 6,000, as a "conservative" figure. 

169 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

The estimates are based "upon past experience and the assumption that 
things will remain as they presently exist," a commentary at once on 
bureaucratic smugness and on a stagnant society. 5 

Women prisoners have special problems. North Carolina laws set a 
minimum prison sentence of 30 days for men, six months for women. A 
serious case of unequal protection exists, with decentralized programs of 
dispersal for men prisoners through the many prison units, whereas 
women are centralized at the lone state women's prison in Raleigh, 
making family visits more difficult as well as possibly being unconstitu- 
tional. 

Another possible violation of women prisoners' constitutional rights is 
the use by prison authorities of pelvic examinations allegedly to search 
for contraband, which could be unreasonable search, cruel and unusual 
punishment and an invasion of privacy. 

In June 1975, these and other grievances at the Women's Correctional 
Center resulted in more than four days of disturbances that left a total of 
32 inmates injured at the hands of various prison and state police agents. 
Prisoner complaints included working conditions in the prison laundry, 
where they worked eight-hour days on aging equipment while tempera- 
tures often reached 120 degrees. State Prisons deputy director Walter 
Kautsky said, "The breakdown occurred because the inmates were 
allowed to have access to mop handles." After the protest was broken, 60 
women were placed in "complete segregation," and 33 others were 
transferred to the previously all-male prison at Morgantown. 

Unless things change soon, "it is likely that federal courts will intervene 
in the operation" of the state prisons, according to a report by the North 
Carolina Commission on Correctional Programs. The report found that 
the state prison system meets few of the standards set by the federal court 
which took control of the Alabama prison system out of that state's 
hands. Among the report's findings were that 71 of the North Carolina 
system's 77 prison units are overcrowded; that only six North Carolina 
units meet the court standard for Alabama; that only one inmate should 
be confined in a single cell with a minimum of 60 square feet; that if the 
Alabama standards were imposed, North Carolina's system could handle 
no more than 7,000 prisoners, less than half those incarcerated. 

North Carolina's 77 prisons are part of the heritage of the highway 
chain-gang system. The state boasts one of the finest highway systems in 
the country and past chief executives and general assemblies are known 
to historians as "good roads governors" and "good roads legislatures." 
But rarely mentioned is the fact that for more than a century those roads 
were built and maintained by convict labor. 

170 



Five 

Before the Civil War, North Carolina had no state prison and held few 
prisoners. Some counties maintained jails which meted out punishment 
to offenders. No provisions existed for employing the labor of prisoners, 
except that free Blacks were hired out to pay fines and costs. Instead of 
imprisonment, law officials employed the pillory, the whipping post and 
the branding iron; the death penalty was also used promiscuously for 
dozens of offenses. Bigamy was punishable by branding with a hot iron 
the letter B upon the cheek. First offense manslaughter brought an M 
burned into the "brawn of the left thumb." Perjury in a capital case 
required that "the offender shall, instead of the public whipping, have his 
right ear cut off and severed entirely from his head, and nailed to the 
pillory by the sheriff, there to remain until sundown." Whipping was 
often the punishment for free Blacks for the same crimes for which whites 
were fined. 6 

In the aftermath of the war, the North Carolina constitution of 1868 
established the state penitentiary and declared that the only forms of 
punishment in the state should be death, imprisonment with or without 
hard labor and fine. Actually the new constitution, considered reformist 
by official state historians, was a Confederate relic. A crime wave swept 
the state after the Civil War, they write, in which "there were added to the 
crimes by white people, which were the natural aftermath of war, the 
offenses of the newly liberated Negroes confused by the responsibilities 
of freedom." Widespread thievery of farm products "was partly due to 
the natural propensities of the Negroes, intensified by their necessities." 7 
Such was the rationale by which state-sanctioned chattel-slavery before 
the war became, after the defeat of the Confederacy, state-sanctioned 
slave labor in the name of prison reform: "For a number of years the 
great majority of prisoners in both state and county prison systems were 
Negroes." 8 

In 1874, for example, 190 Blacks were sentenced to state prison, 
compared with 24 whites. The next year, 395 Blacks went to the state 
prison; only 45 whites were so sentenced. In 1898, of 952 state prisoners, 
846 were Black, 105 were white and one was Indian. 9 The chain gang 
developed in this context. Before the Civil War, the only legal provision 
for sheriffs hiring out labor were those concerning free Blacks. Early in 
the nineteenth century,//-^ Blacks were sold at auction until their labor 
paid back court-ordered fines and costs. 10 The first recorded road gang 
was organized by the military government at the end of the war. This 
story appeared in the Raleigh Daily Standard, September 27, 1865: 

The military on yesterday picked up a large number of gentlemen of color, 
who were loitering about the street corners, apparently much depressed by 



171 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

ennui and general lassitude of the nervous system, and, having armed them 
with spades and shovels, set them to play at street cleaning for the benefit of 
their own health and the health of the town generally. This is certainly a "move 
in the right direction"; for the indolent, lazy Sambo, who lies about in the 
sunshine and neglects to seek employment by which to make a living, is 
undoubtedly "the right man in the right place" when enrolled in the spade and 
shovel brigade. 

Immediately after the Civil War, the legislature of 1866-7 authorized 
justices of the peace to sentence offenders to work in chain gangs on 
public roads and railroads. As has been shown, the great majority of 
these prisoners were Black. The consolidated statutes of 1919 said that 
"Counties and towns may hire out certain prisoners." Statute 1356 read 
in part: 

The board of commissioners of the several counties, within their respective 
jurisdictions, or such other county authorities therein as may be established, 
and the mayor and intendant of the several cities and towns of the state, have 
power to provide under such rules and regulations as they may deem best for 
the employment on the public streets, public highways, public works, or other 
labor for individuals or corporations, of all persons imprisoned in the jails of 
their respective counties, cities and towns, upon conviction of any crime or 
misdemeanor, or who may be committed to jail for failure to enter into bond 
for keeping the peace or for good behavior. ... 11 

The law served as the basis for the custom of allowing county 
commissioners to hire out prison labor to private individuals and 
corporations, a form of peonage as common to North Carolina and the 
South as rocking chairs on a screened front porch in summertime. 

The Carolina chain gang contains the roots of the present prison 
misery. The vermin, the epidemics of tuberculosis and syphillis, hot and 
cold running dysentery, the random cruelty and torture by the "walking 
boss," the reported average life expectancy of five years for road-gang 
prisoners— these are the legacy of North Carolina's "corrections" system. 

Boyd Payton, the textile workers' leader imprisoned in the 1960s for 
his leadership of the Harriet-Henderson Cotton Mill strike, described his 
days on a modem road gang in his book Scapegoat. As the prisoners rode 
to their assignment: 

As we bounced along on the boards fastened around the cage and intended for 
seats, the other members of the squad began my education as member of the 
"gun-squad." They listed the "don'ts" forme as follows: (1) Don't let the guard 
hear you cussin' or you'll get 30 days in the hole; (2) Don't cross the road from 

172 



Five 

where you're workin' or the guard can shoot you down for attempted escape; 
(3) Don't make any sudden moves like jumpin' or runnin' or stoopin' over like 
you was pickin' up a rock, or the guard can shoot you down; (4) Don't, never, 
approach within 10 feet of the guard or he can shoot you down; (5) Don't 
stoop over to tie your shoe without gettin' permission 'cause the guard might 
not feel as urgent about it as you do; (6) If you do get permission to go for a 
"crap" be prepared for the foreman to be standin' over you with a revolver and 
be careful not to make any sudden moves or he can shoot you down; (7) Don't, 
never, speak or wave to anyone who passes, or you'll go to the hole; (8) Don't 
ever get more than 10 feet ahead or 10 feet behind the rest of the squad; (9) 
Don't ever pick up an apple or a nut without permission of the guard and don't 
ever take anything from anyone passin' by. 

The foreman was riding in the cab with the driver. I was told that they were 
both employed by the highway department but were under the jurisdiction of 
prison officials while supervising prisoners. "The guard is the k top dog.' they 
told me, "but both the guard and the foreman like to be called Captain." 

Then, as now, the prison labor had a singular purpose: "Without 
doubt," wrote two Chapel Hill professors half a century ago, "the motive 
underlying the establishment and the continuance of the county chain 
gang is primarily economic. . . . This system offers to the county an 
apparent source of profit in the form of cheap labor for use in the 
building and maintenance of roads. The average county official in charge 
of such prisoners thinks far more of exploiting their labor in the interest 
of good roads, than of any corrective or reformatory value in such 
methods of penal treatment. . . . The local criminal courts tend to be 
looked upon as feeders for the chain gang, and there is evidence in some 
instances that the mill of criminal justice grinds more industriously when 
the convict road force needs new recruits." 12 

Convict chain gangs were not ended in North Carolina until July 1973, 
and prison authorities have not dismissed the possibility of their return. 
State legislature discussions of the subject turn on the question of 
whether prisoners should be paid for their labor, even nominally. They 
never have yet in the state, and with economic hard times in the country, 
the likelihood is that they won't soon be paid. During the Great 
Depression of the 1930s, the state prison system became an appendage of 
the Highway Commission, both to cut down on the cost of government, 
and because the primary goal of the prison system was to maintain 
a 10,000-strong highway-construction army. In the 1950s, Governor 
Luther Hodges found that machines could build roads in less time and at 
lower costs than hand labor, that only 6,000 prisoners "could be econom- 
ically employed in road work." He decided to set up a prison industries 

173 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

program to find new areas for this huge workforce that was forced to 
labor without pay. "Prison industries — as long as they did not compete 
with private industry — were recognized as being able to serve a useful 
and profitable part on the operation of our prison system," wrote Hodges 
later. 13 A soap plant was put into operation; a metal plant began making 
license plates; a sewing room was built at Women's Prison. Still the chain 
gangs continued and by 1970, North Carolina could brag of the finest 
highway system in the country, with more than 68 percent of all road 
mileage being paved. This compared favorably with the national average 
of 44.4 percent, 14 contributed heavily to the state's New South reputa- 
tion, attracted still more industry and made Charlotte the overland 
trucking hub of the Southeast. 

Most of the state's labor camps have, in their visitors room, inscribed 
and framed, the following exhortation, entitled "Loyalty": "If you work 
for a man, in heaven's name, work for him, speak well of him and stand 
by the institution he represents." 

With the production of New South propaganda in itself becoming 
nearly a light industry under Hodges, still another "reform" was passed 
by the 1957 General Assembly with the prisoner work-release program. 
Under recommendation of the sentencing judge, misdemeanor prisoners 
could be allowed to work on regular jobs outside the prison, provided 
they returned each night and each weekend to their cells. North Carolina 
became the first state to introduce this "new star in the correctional 
firmament," in the words of critic Jessica Mitford. But the work-release 
program is also "a surprisingly useful and practical method of supple- 
menting county jail and state prison budgets, providing sinecures for an 
inordinant number of guards and other 'correctional' employees, and 
supplying cheap labor to nonunion employers." 15 By 1974, there were 
some 2,000 North Carolina prisoners on work-release, the largest num- 
ber and percentage of any state. 

The first state to develop work-release on a statewide basis, North 
Carolina is also the first to allow sentencing a prisoner directly to work- 
release. Alongside the work-release program comes greater involvement 
of police and correctional systems in the community outside of prison. 
Several government agencies and private industries have planned pro- 
grams for prison industrial work directed at returning prison industries 
to the private sector. One government report recommended "adoption of 
programs whereby private enterprise establishes factories manned en- 
tirely by committed offenders." North Carolina is a recipient of the 
federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration's "Private Sector 
Correctional Program," coordinating private industry and prison work 

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Five 

programs. At a time when the state could find no jobs for free labor, 
private concerns rushed to offer 3,200 jobs to convicts and parolees. A 
man who has to face prison with its arbitrary discipline at the end of each 
workday makes the "ideal" worker. A 1974 statewide survey of business 
attitudes found that industry liked work-release: "The work release 
prisoner . . . may be a more conscientious, dependable employee than the 
average free man." 16 

A system of forced labor has always been required by U.S. capitalism 
for the production of certain "unprofitable" products; to regulate the 
activities of a selected workforce which in turn could be used as a lever on 
the wages of the workforce at large; and to serve as a laboratory for 
development of new methods of coercion. Prison labor is the only 
domestic sector that produces a profit equal to or in excess of that 
enjoyed by multinational companies in the most exploited countries. 
Working without pay, under threat of severe discipline without restraint, 
prison labor earns private industry and government nearly 20 percent 
profit a year. North Carolina leads the country in prison industrial 
output per capita. 17 In 1973, with an average 1,000 prisoners working in 
the 11 prison industries, the Prison Enterprise System realized net profits 
in excess of $1.5 million. 18 

One explanation of North Carolina's having the largest per capita 
prison population in the country — 12th in state population, Tarheel 
prisons house the 5th largest prison population — is that it is the only state 
in the country that houses misdemeanor offenders in the state prisons. 
One third of all state prisoners and two thirds of all new prisoners in a 
given year are misdemeanants, including public drunks. 19 The great 
majority of sentence-serving misdemeanants are mixed with the felon 
prisoners. Infractions of prison rules will bring maximum security to 
bear on misdemeanants as well as felons. And while guards can't shoot at 
a fleeing misdemeanant, they can shoot at fleeing felons, and fleeing 
prison is a felony— one of those Catch-22 provisions so vital to the 
mishegoss of corrections systems. 20 

But the imprisoned misdemeanant population does not entirely ac- 
count for North Carolina's national lead in prison population, for the 
state also has the highest per capita felon population, according to state 
corrections commissioner Ralph Edwards, who comments, "Maybe we 
have better law enforcement." 21 Actually the lengths of sentences are 
getting longer and the felon population is increasing, including among 
young prisoners. In 1969, the state prisons admitted 300 under-18 felons; 
in 1973, the number had almost tripled to 850. 22 It is estimated that by 
1979 the 1974 ratio of one misdemeanant to three felons will decline to the 



175 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

ratio of one misdemeanant to five felons, and by 1984 the ratio will be one 
misdemeanant to thirteen felons. 23 The projections suggest not leniency 
toward misdemeanants but quite the opposite — still harsher sentencing 
in years to come. Meanwhile, North Carolina has not yet instituted "time 
off for good behavior," a common practice in other states. 

As barbaric as its treatment of adult offenders is, the state's approach 
to juveniles in trouble requires a Victor Hugo to adequately describe its 
horrors. Children diagnosed as having "learning disability" are "tracked" 
into juvenile prisons. Duke University psychiatrist J. S. Gallemore 
complains that the state's juvenile justice system is retrograde because it 
holds that criminality is synonymous with mental illness, and that 
punishment is rehabilitative. 24 Punishment of children in North Car- 
olina, is endemic in the schools. State law provides that "Principals, 
teachers, substitute teachers, voluntary teachers, teachers' aids and 
assistant and student teachers in the public schools . . . may use 
reasonable force in the exercise of lawful authority to restrain or correct 
pupils and maintain order"; and further, that "No county or city board of 
education or district committee shall promulgate or continue in effect a 
rule, regulation or by-law which prohibits the use of such force." 

In 1911, North Carolina established in state law the principle of parens 
patriae (the state's right to be a substitute parent) on the basis of 
providing for children or juveniles who, "by reason of infancy, defective 
understanding, or other misfortune or infirmity, are unable to take care 
of themselves." 25 (Author's emphasis.) Consequently, North Carolina 
imprisons more juveniles per capita than any other state, according to 
official figures. 26 By 1973 the state was spending more than $9,000 to 
house each imprisoned child, more than the cost of sending the same 
child to Duke University with summer vacation in Europe and weekly 
sessions with a private psychologist. 27 

Mason Thomas, a leading juvenile corrections expert at the University 
of North Carolina's Institute of Government, a sort of extension school 
for state and local officials, says that "the prison and juvenile training 
systems have been a method of separating powerless, poor Black people 
from the general population. The tendency to punishment is a way of 
continuing segregation." 28 In a brief history of the juvenile corrections 
system in North Carolina, Thomas wrote that a prime purpose of the 
juvenile prisons or training schools was for children to "receive moral 
training and develop middle class values." 29 The age of criminal respon- 
sibility was fixed at seven; children of this age could be prosecuted in the 
criminal courts. 30 The North Carolina Constitution of 1868 required the 
building of a state penitentiary which imprisoned children alongside 

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Five 

adult offenders from the beginning. Only executive clemency — Thomas 
cites a governor excusing from prison a youth "sentenced to three years 
for stealing a goose valued at ten cents" — prevented children eight years 
old or more from incarceration at Raleigh's Central Prison. 31 Central 
Prison was built by prison labor and that same labor was sold or 
contracted to outsiders in order to make the prison self-sufficient. When 
the labor of women and children in prison proved not to be as saleable, 
the authorities moved to create a women's prison and the juvenile justice 
system. 32 

Juvenile courts and "training schools" have been part of North 
Carolina law since 1919, although juvenile offenders can and are still sent 
to Central and other state prisons by the courts. Undefined but included 
in North Carolina statutes as falling under the court's jurisdiction are 
children under 16 years old in the following categories: delinquent, 
truant, unruly, wayward, misdirected, disobedient to parents or beyond 
their control or in danger of becoming so, neglected, dependent upon 
public support, destitute, homeless, abandoned, or whose custody is 
subject to controversy. 33 A 1972 state law, which must count as a high 
point for a legislature almost wholly given over to lows, and in the 
estimate of penal reformers, is a considerable advance in North Carolina, 
requires that children less than 10 years old or those whose offenses 
would not be considered crimes if committed by adults, cannot be 
imprisoned until the court has exhausted all community-level alternative 
services. One of the more controversial questions before the state 
legislature is the continuing incarceration of juveniles for being "un- 
disciplined," i.e., for committing acts which are not considered criminal 
for adults. Recent "reforms," for example regarding truancy from 
school, prevent imprisonment for first-time truants; these are placed on 
probation and are incarcerated "only" if they break probation. 34 

In a 1973 state legislative session dominated by "special interests" of 
the I'll-back-your-highway-You-support-my-bridge type, it was consid- 
ered another small step for mankind when a statute passed limiting to 
five days the jailing of juveniles without a hearing. 35 Once imprisoned, 
however, no such limits exist. An earlier Bar Association report found 
that "juveniles who disrupt a class [in training school] are automatically 
locked up for five days" in segregation or solitary confinement. 36 Mason 
Thomas argues that "people — especially children — are locked up even 
though they pose no threat to anyone. Judges aren't tuned into people's 
needs — economic, personal, psychological. We deal with social prob- 
lems by punishment. Part of this comes from our bible-belt morality. We 
separate children from their families in order to 'rehabilitate' them 



177 



Nothing Could Be Finer 



because the families don't have 'middle-class values and morality,' 
whatever that means." 37 

The 1975 General Assembly, in a holiday of generosity, passed a bill 
stating that youths under 16 must be held in a special "holdover" section 
of jail, isolated from older prisoners, and for not more than five days, 
before transfer to a juvenile prison. Until 1975, youth offenders of 14 and 
15 years of age and sometimes younger could be held in county jails and 
placed in state prisons. Part of the reason was that there are only eight 
juvenile "homes" in the state but 190 holding jails. 38 

One of those "homes," the apple of the eyes of North Carolina's 
professional penologists, is the "high-rise" at Morgantown. The 11-story 
facility is designed as an institute for "behavior modification," the latest 
fad in the field of corrections, which refuses to acknowledge the failures 
of a society that needs fundamental change, opting instead to tamper 
with the individual subjects' heads. Camouflaged by garlands of psycho- 
logical theories, behavior modification is underneath all the sweet 
rationales, still another way of forcing a prisoner to accept responsibility 
for his own poverty, deprivation, victimization. At Morgantown, be- 
havior modification is literally built into the structure of the institution. 
Young inmates first brought here are immediately placed on the top floor 
in a bare room for a period of solitary confinement. Based on how he 
responds to his keepers, after a few weeks he is or isn't brought to the next 
floor down, where he is given a blanket. Similarly, depending on his 
behavior he works his way down to the other floors where he might 
acquire a cellmate, eventually access to a radio or television, until he 
finally works or "behaves" his way down to the ground floor and release 
from prison. The same program, where prisoners are put into solitary 
confinement upon entering the institute and are rewarded for docility 
with better conditions, was applied for a while at Springfield, Missouri, 
federal penitentiary, under the name Project START. If insufficient 
"progress" was shown by the prisoner after 18 months, he was then sent to 
a medical facility for treatment as a "chronic psychotic." That program 
was discontinued in 1974 after inmate protests, lawsuits, hunger strikes 
and congressional hearings. But local programs, such as those in North 
Carolina, continue. 



U.s . Treasury agent Stanley Noel was present and accounted for at the 
Pender County courthouse in Burgaw that September 11, 1972, when the 
second Wilmington 10 trial was to begin. A man of cold steel-grey eyes 




178 



Five 



which reinforce the appearance of one who might have viewed Buchen- 
wald as merely an unpleasantness, Noel came to Burgaw for more than 
vicarious pleasures. He had pursued Ben Chavis from the time the young 
man became active in the student antiwar movement in UNCC, and had 
conducted no-knock raids of Ben's student apartment. Now, five years 
later, in a North Carolina state case, the federal G-man had prepared the 
prosecution's evidence just as he'd done in the state's case against the 
Charlotte Three. On behalf of his superiors he had finally managed to put 
away Jim Grant for 35 years in federal and state prisons; now after a half- 
dozen failures, he was going to get Ben Chavis for 34 years. Relishing his 
accomplishment, he would sit in court every day for seven weeks, now a 
participant, now a spectator, in the second longest trial in the history of 
North Carolina. 

Also to be victimized as co-defendants of the Rev. Chavis were 
members of his church, high-school student leaders and community 
activists. Such are the requirements of "conspiracy" prosecutions and 
investigatory whimsy, that more than one person is necessary to "con- 
spire," the more the better as it happens. Making up the Wilmington 10 in 
addition to Ben were Reginald Epps, the oldest of nine children, an usher 
and choir member at Wilmington's Price A.M.E. Zion Church, and 
member of the Student Human Relations Committee; Jerry Jacobs, who 
grew up in the Union Baptist Church and became an outstanding tennis 
player and instructor; James McKoy, a graduate of Hoggard High 
School, a musician and little league baseball coach; Wayne Moore, a 
graduate of the New Hanover County School and member of the Temple 
of the Black Messiah, whose mother is a community leader associated 
with Wilmington's NAACP, Ebenezer Baptist Church and Operation 
Headstart; Marvin Patrick, a member of the Temple of the Black 
Messiah and a Vietnam veteran at the age of 19; Ann Sheppard, the only 
white and only woman defendant, a friend of Rev. Eugene and Donna 
Templeton of the Gregory Congregational Church, a member of the 
Wilmington Good Neighbor Council, and mother of three; Connie 
Tindall, formerly part of the New Hanover County School Glee Club, an 
outstanding football player and member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church; 
Willie Earl Vereen, member of the Hoggard High School band and 
parishioner at the Temple of the Black Messiah; and William Wright, II, 
better known as "Joe" at the New Hanover County School he attended 
and the St. Thomas Catholic Church to which he belonged. All but Ann 
Sheppard and Connie Tindall were teenagers at the time of arrest; Ann 
was 34, Connie, 21. 

Solicitor Jay Stroud's stomach ache was a thing of the past as the 

179 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

second trial opened. On hand to help out in addition to Treasury agent 
Noel, was Dale Johnson, a special prosecutor sent to Burgaw from 
Raleigh by his boss, Attorney General Robert Morgan. Morgan's record 
of prosecuting Rev. Chavis must have made him feel somewhat like the 
frustrated Hamilton Burger, who had to duel Perry Mason in the 
courtroom in each of Earl Stanley Gardner's creations. This time 
Morgan was determined to succeed. In addition to sending prosecutor 
Johnson from his own office, the attorney general dispatched Judge 
Robert Martin to Burgaw. Judge Martin, who had presided over theTeel 
trial in which the Klansmen who killed Henry Lee Marrow in Oxford 
went free, had also kept Walter David Washington on the streets after the 
latter's testimony against the Charlotte Three. It was Judge Martin who 
ruled over Washington's probation hearing when he was under investiga- 
tion for murder and under indictment for armed robbery. Martin ruled 
that Washington's probation restrictions were no longer warranted, such 
had been the pace and thoroughness of his reformation. No such charity 
would be forthcoming from Judge Martin in the Wilmington 10 trial 
however. 

Martin, who with Attorney General Morgan, had campaigned for the 
segregationist I. Beverly Lake for governor a decade earlier, did not 
figure to be disinterested and impartial in a case that centered around the 
struggle to desegregate the Wilmington school system. (Judge Martin 
told the author two years after the Wilmington 10 trial that he "harbored 
no prejudice" against Black people. "I was raised in a mainly Black 
county. I ate with them and played with them. We had an instinctive love 
for the Negro race. Why, my secretary is Black. That should show you 
how I feel about them.") For his part, Morgan played the prudent cruise 
captain, staying in the background except for at least one moment in the 
heat of the trial, when he came to Burgaw to lunch and confer with Judge 
Martin, an indiscretion both dismissed as a "social" meeting having 
nothing to do with the case at hand. Those who were not apt to take 
elected officials at their word, pointed out that tiny Burgaw is not so 
noted for its cuisine that the attorney general would drive 125 miles from 
Raleigh for a bite to eat. 

The first week of the trial was consumed by jury selection. Over 100 
prospective jurors were bused 80 miles every morning into Burgaw. 
Defense attorney James Ferguson asked the court to sequester the 
prospective jurors during the selection questioning so that they would 
not be influenced by one another's answers, especially in light of pre-trial 
publicity. The motion was denied by Judge Martin. 

In that first week, the prosecution used 42 preemptory challenges to 

180 



Five 

dismiss potential Black jurors without cause. The defense used up its 
preemptory challenges against jurors who were admitted Klan members 
or supporters, those who said they thought the defendants were guilty, 
and those who said they would not be on trial if they hadn't done at least 
some wrong. Eventually, though, the defense ran out of preemptory 
challenges and had to show cause. In this effort they were blocked by 
Judge Martin. The nature of the voir dire {jury selection) questioning and 
the trial to come can be determined by the following excerpts of 
testimony: 

q. (Prosecution) Let me ask you this. Have you heard or read anything with 
regard to any of these defendants in connection with these particular charges? 
a. No, not these particular charges, no. 

q. And as a result of anything that you have read or heard have you formed 
any impression since you don't know anything that has gone on and you only 
have what you have read or heard to rely on, have you formed any impression 
about any particular or any of these defendants? 

a. I have formed an opinion as to the character of one of the defendants. 

q. You have? 

a. Yes, sir. That is, as a result of what I have read. It is not the result of any 
other source of information. Just what 1 have read. 

q. As a result of that impression you have of that particular defendant, do 
you think it would have any bearing at all in what your verdict might be in this 
case on the basis of the evidence that will be presented here? 

a. If I had a difficult time in reaching a verdict it just might possibly help me 
in reaching a verdict, maybe, just might possibly. I am saying that the 
impression I have is an unfavorable one toward the defendant. I don't know 
the defendant personally. I have seen his picture. 

Q. You have never seen him personally? 

a. No. 

MR. Ferguson: Objection. We renew our motion to sequester the jurors on 
the voir dire examination. 

the court: Overruled. Denied. 

Or, another example: 

q. Do you realize that anyone who will serve on the jury in this case will be 
required by law to render their verdict only on the basis of the evidence that is 
presented here under oath here in this courtroom. Do you understand that? 

a. Yes. 

Q. Would you be able to do that? 

A. Well, I think maybe I could. I don't know. I have formed opinions and 
heard opinions formed about it. I don't know whether it would have any effect 
on me or not. 



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Nothing Could Be Finer 

q. Opinions about what, sir? 

a. About this case. 

Q. What about this case? 

mr Ferguson: Objection. 

the court: Overruled. 

a. The case that is being tried here. 

q. You have an opinion as to the case that is being tried here? 
a. Yes. 

mr. Ferguson: Objection; we renew our motion to sequester the remaining 
panel. 

the court: Overruled. 

Scores of similar exceptions were made by the defense, which was 
holding to the American Bar Association fair trial standards that state, 
"Wherever there is believed to be a significant possibility that individual 
talesmens will be ineligible to serve because of exposure to potentially 
prejudicial material, the examination of each juror with respect to his 
exposure shall take place outside the presence of other chosen and 
prospective jurors." 

Throughout the questioning Judge Martin catered to the prosecution's 
bent for constant references to the race of persons, e.g. "Do any of you 
know Mr. or Mrs. James Jackson, a Black couple who lived in that house 
owned by Mrs. Fennell?" or "Do any of you know Mrs. McKeithan, a 
Black woman of Wilmington who lived next door to Mike's grocery 
store?" But the judge was not so liberal in allowing defense questioning as 
to the jurors' possible racism. On at least 105 occasions, the judge 
sustained prosecution objections to such questioning by attorney Fergu- 
son. The transcript provides the following examples among many: 

Q. Now, ladies and gentlemen of thejury, it so happens in this case that nine 
of the defendants on trial are Black persons. The store that they are charged 
with burning is owned by Mike Poulos, a white person in Wilmington. Let me 
ask first if any of you presently have any feelings of racial prejudice against 
Black people. That is, would any of you more readily convict these persons 
because they are Black than you would if they were white? Do any of you feel 
more strongly about this case because the person whose store was allegedly 
burned was white? All of you feel that you could put that out of your minds 
and not let it influence your verdicts one way or the other in the trial of this 
case? One of the defendants in this action, Mrs. Sheppard, is white, a young 
white lady. Does the fact that nine Black men are charged along with one 
white woman give any of you any feelings about any of the defendants in this 
case which might be adverse to them or against them? Do any of you harbor 
any feelings of racial prejudice that you are aware of whatsoever? Have any of 

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Five 



you ever belonged to any clubs or organizations which has as one of its tenets 
white supremacy? 

solicitor stroud: Objection 

the court: Objection sustained. 

Or, the following: 

Q. Going back to Mr. Brown for a moment. I am sorry. What clubs or 
organizations in the community are you a member of, Mr. Brown? 

A. I belong to the Burgaw Lions Club, Pender County Rescue Squad, 
American Legion, member of the Pender County Board of Education. I 
belong to several school groups. I belong to the Pender County Industrial 
Development Corporation. I have been a member of the Buckner Country 
Club, member of the Baptist Church. I am a Mason. That is all 1 can think of 
right now. 

q. Have you ever belonged to any club or organization that excluded Black 
people among its membership? 
solicitor stroud: Objection. 
the court: Sustained. 

Or, again: 

Q. Have any of you ever been victims of a damage to property? Has anyone 
ever damaged your property that you know of? Any of your property burned 
by anyone? It happens in this case, ladies and gentlemen, and again 1 am just 
asking for your honest answers, that the nine defendants 1 represent are young 
Black men. The store that is alleged to have been burned was owned by a white 
man, Mike Poulos, in Wilmington. Does the race of the parties involved 
bother anyone? Does that give any of you any problems? 

solicitor stroud: Objection. 

court: Overruled. 

Q. And is anyone bothered by that fact? I am really asking you if anyone 
feels more sympathetic to one side in the case or the other because of that fact? 
Do all of you believe in racial equality? 

solicitor stroud: Objection. 

court: Sustained. 

q. Is there anyone on the jury who doesn't believe in racial equality? 
mr. johnson: Objection. 
court: Sustained. 

Q. Would any of you more readily convict a person charged with a crime 
because he is Black than you would if he was some other color? 
solicitor stroud: Objection. 
court: Sustained. 



183 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

The jury was finally seated after two weeks of selections, with ten whites 
and two Blacks, exactly the reverse of the ratio in the first trial. 

The trial itself proved as frustrating for the defense attorneys as the 
voir dire. The state entered into evidence 88 photographs of the Gregory 
Congregational Church taken in 1972, a year after the siege of the church. 
That is, over defense objections, the prosecution presented "evidence" 
not of a 1971 "crime" but of a 1972 scene. Most of the state's case was 
about on the same level. During the armed siege of the church the 
previous year, emergency medical supplies were brought to Rev. Tem- 
pleton's house next to the church for first-aid purposes. The medical 
supplies were later taken by the National Guard and were now presented 
in court as evidence that Ben and the students had been planning an 
armed rebellion all along and had set up a revolutionary hospital. The 
prosecutors passed the band-aids to the jury so that they could see them, 
then passed the scissors around, passed the gauze, the unguentine, the 
iodine. It took a whole morning of the trial for the jury to inspect these 
"revolutionary" medical supplies. 

The only photos of Rev. Chavis the prosecution had were taken during 
a nonviolent march to the Wilmington City Hall asking for police 
protection for the Black community and for a city-wide curfew, and 
those taken during the funeral of Steve Mitchell a week after the siege of 
the church was lifted. The city had enjoined the mourners from having 
the funeral at Gregory, so they walked in formation across town to 
another church. Photos were taken of everybody in the funeral proces- 
sion. These pictures were introduced in the trial and portrayed to the jury 
as a mob scene. Jay Stroud, aggressive in court but otherwise a rather 
dim bulb, told the jury, look, this is concrete proof, pictures don't lie, 
here's Chavis leading a mob. The photos showed the mourners, marching 
in twos, nonviolently. When the defense subpoenaed the photographer, 
it was discovered that he had been sent to Wilmington by the FBI, 
Defense Intelligence Agency and other federal snoop bureaus. 

But the defendants suffered a serious blow early in the trial. The key 
witnesses were to be Rev. and Mrs. Templeton, who were flying back to 
North Carolina to testify. Their testimony would include vouching for 
the presence of Rev. Chavis and other defendants in their livingroom at 
the time of the fire at Mike's Grocery. Solicitor Stroud found out they 
were on their way and he sent some policemen to the Wilmington airport 
to arrest the Templetons on sight. The plane was to touch down in 
Fayetteville en route, and some friends of the defense took them off the 
plane and drove them to Raleigh to await discussions to decide how next 
to move. But the Templetons, fearful now of the consequences of 

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Five 

testifying, left North Carolina again, taking with them the best hope of 
the Wilmington 10 for a court acquittal. 

As in the Chavis-Grant federal trial and the Charlotte Three case, what 
the prosecution lacked in evidence it made up for with testimony from 
convicted criminals on the make for reduced sentences. Of 41 witnesses 
for the prosecution — most were police, firemen or other city employees 
who took the stand to say, yup, I was near the church that night, and I can 
tell you there were gunfire and destruction of property, but I can't 
identify the defendants and tell you if they did anything wrong — only one 
witness placed the defendants on the scene and implicated them in the 
damage that resulted. He was 18-year-old Allen Hall, who had been in 
and out of various mental institutions and was now in prison on a 12- 
year-sentence on charges of rioting during the siege of the Gregory 
Congregational Church. The other key prosecution witness was Jerome 
Mitchell, also 18, also in prison, for 40 years on unrelated robbery and 
murder charges. 

When Hall was originally arrested, he signed a statement admitting 
that he had burned down Mike's Grocery, that he had shot at policemen, 
that he had shot Harvey Cumber, the man who died of gunshot wounds 
while he was firing into the church, and that he had committed these 
crimes alone. The police then sent him to a mental hospital until he 
agreed to testify against the Wilmington 10 in return for immunity from 
prosecution on the assault, arson and conspiracy to murder charges. It 
was Hall's agreement to the deal that brought the initial indictment. 

By the time of trial, Hall had his tale down as pat as can be expected 
from a deranged teenager. The essence of his new story was that Ben 
Chavis came to Wilmington to organize a clandestine revolutionary 
rebellion, pitting Black people against white people; that Ben had 
virtually hypnotized Hall into doing the things he had admitted to; that 
in the church, Ben carried two machine guns, and that Hall and Marvin 
Patrick each had another; that they were under instructions to shoot at 
all white people, even the whites inside the church; that he burned down 
Mike's Grocery and killed Harvey Cumber on Ben's orders. Mitchell, 
who was not in the vicinity of the church during the entire week of the 
events in question, but who was allowed into the courtroom to listen to 
Hall's testimony, simply repeated Hall's story, as if verification from a 
convicted murderer and robber lent ample weight to secure a conviction. 
(Solicitor Jay Stroud was pleased enough with Mitchell as a snitch to use 
him in a trial of two other young Black men, Isaac Sherill Munk and 
Christopher Spicer, who were sentenced to death in Central Prison's gas 
chamber for the murder of a white man, on the basis of Mitchell's 



185 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

testimony on August 24, 1973.) Hall, a lifelong resident of Wilmington, 
and one who claimed to be in the church for the four crucial days in 
February, could identify only the 10 defendants as having been in the 
church with him, although he admitted there were some 200 other 
youngsters there as well. One of the defendants he named, Ann Shep- 
pard, produced in court a letter Hall had sent her from prison, after he 
had agreed to testify for the prosecution. The letter was a threat to kill her 
if she didn't also testify for the state. 

Under Ferguson's cross-examination, Hall's barking at the moon 
became apparent to onlookers. At times during Hall's three-day descrip- 
tion of events that had taken place 19 months earlier, he told exactly how 
many bullets had been fired by various defendants during gunbattles 
with police, the number of firebombs thrown at buildings and the 
calibers of a dozen weapons. He couldn't say "right offhand" what 
detectives had said to him the day he admitted having committed the 
crimes, but he could "right offhand" quote precisely Ben Chavis' words 
of a year and a half before. 

Ferguson showed Hall a transcript of a preliminary hearing in which 
the young convict testified he had never met Ben before February 5, 1971, 
and a later statement in which he said he attended several meetings with 
Ben earlier that year. Hall also testified on cross-examination that he had 
met with detectives and prosecuting attorneys several times before the 
trial and that he had visited the scene of the fires and shootings with 
them, but he could not recall the dates of these conversations and visits. 

Ferguson showed Hall a statement he had signed months before the 
trial in which Hall claimed that on the night that Mike's Grocery burned 
down, he had bought a bottle of liquor and gone to an uncle's house 
where he drank and ate fried chicken. "You went out to the VFW and got 
drunk and don't know what you did on Friday night, isn't that right?" 
asked Ferguson. "No, sir," replied Hall. 

The young mental patient became agitated as contradiction after 
contradiction in his testimony were brought out. He threatened to 
become unhinged, as he had during the preliminary hearings earlier that 
year when he jumped from the stand and swung at Rev. Chavis. Now, his 
anger was directed at attorney Ferguson. He bolted out of the witness 
chair and lunged at Ferguson. It took six deputies to subdue and remove 
the witness from the courtroom, and one juror was knocked down by 
Hall on his way out. When the court reconvened, one juror asked to be 
excused, citing heart problems, but Judge Martin chose to continue the 
trial, and warned Ferguson that he would be cited for contempt of court 
if he again "provoked" Hall. 

186 



Five 

The defense moved for a mental examination of Hall, and moved for a 
mistrial because of the witness's actions. At this point, the trial transcript 
reads: 

court: The court finds and concludes that the demeanor of the witness and 
the incident was precipitated in some degree by his long cross-examination, 
the rapidity of the questions, the tone of the examiner and that the motion for 
a mental examination of the witness is not required and the motion is denied. 

MR. Ferguson: May we let the record show that we except to each and every 
finding of fact by the Court and to the conclusion of law. 

court: And also that the motion to strike the evidence of the witness is 
denied. 

mr. ferguson: I would like if 1 may, to state that we would like to call to the 
Court's attention that shortly after the cross-examination of the witness had 
begun and during recess of the Court we called to the Court's attention the fact 
that the witness was mouthing obscenities to me from the witness stand. 

court: And also I believe that I made the remark, I asked you was it 
audible and you said there was no audible sound. 

mr. ferguson: That is correct. 

court: The motion for mistrial is denied. 

Among the more questionable of the prosecution's acts during the trial 
was its suppression of the right of discovery for the defense. Allen Hall 
had given a typewritten statement of his testimony to the prosecutors at 
the outset of the trial. As the prosecution is required to do, it showed this 
initial statement to the defense. However, in subsequent interviews 
between the prosecutors and Hall, the original statement was amended 
with notes by the prosecutor. The amended statement was denied to the 
defense. When Ferguson appealed to Judge Martin, the jurist read the 
notes himself but denied the defense the right to read them. 

All of the contradictions in Hall's testimony were explained by Hall 
and the prosecution as having been "corrected" or "reconciled" in Hall's 
final statement, which the defense was not denied the right to read. Hall 
said that when he realized he had lied in earlier statements, he summoned 
Jay Stroud to the prison in which he was being held and dictated changes 
which Stroud noted in the margins of the original statement. Judge 
Martin ruled that the defense could not see Hall's corrected statements 
because they were, as the Raleigh News and Observer noted, "his own 
personal notes and were not meant for public examination." During 
Jerome Mitchell's turn in the witness chair the next day, to verify Hall's 
story, he also testified that signed statements he had given to police 
officers were false and "additions and corrections" had been made some 
time after the statements were signed. 



187 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

In Brady v. Maryland, the key U.S. Supreme Court decision on 
suppression of evidence, the Court ruled: "We now hold that the 
suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon 
request violates the due process where the evidence is material either to 
guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the 
prosecution." Now, in a case where the chief question was the credibility 
of the only witness the prosecution had who might tie the accused to the 
alleged violations, that witness's evidence was being suppressed by both 
the prosecution and the court. Since the supposed amended statement 
was the last recorded statement made by Hall, the jury was given the 
impression that regardless of any prior falsehoods or inconsistencies, 
Hall had made a final statement which was fully consistent with his 
testimony. And the defenre was being told that it would not be allowed to 
show the jury that this "statement" in fact never did exist, or even that it 
was inconsistent with Hall's testimony. Judge Martin could not have 
more effectively rendered the defense powerless had he applied gags and 
shackles to the attorneys. The maneuver was so cute, as Dorothy Parker 
once wrote, it was enough to make one "fwow up." 

Attorney Ferguson argued that the state was "emptying out the jails, 
the mental institutions and the training schools" to produce fabricated 
evidence to punish Rev. Chavis for his political leadership of the Black 
communities of the state He pointed out to the court that the state had 
based its case on a display of guns, some photographs taken months after 
the incidents in question, and the testimony of two convicted felons, Hall 
and Mitchell, who got th^ir stories together when prosecutors arranged 
for them to meet at Cherry State Hospital in Goldsboro, where they were 
confined to undergo mental examinations. Ferguson's argument was to 
no avail. Toward the trial's end, the prosecution produced still another 
witness, a 13-year-old named E r »r Junious, Jr., who had been imprisoned 
in a state training school aftei admitting to robbing a man selling 
newspapers. The teenage robber was called to support the contradictory 
testimony of Hall and Mitchell, an impossible task to start with and a 
miraclejobfora 13-year-old. Eric Junious, Jr., proved not to be a miracle 
worker 

Jtill, with a jury to the prosecution's liking, a favorable setting like 
rural Pender County in which the Klan and ROWP ran at will, a special 
prosecutor and special judge handpicked by the state's attorney general, 
Jay Stroud had easy pickings in presenting his closing arguments. 
Summing up the case against the young minister, eight local high-school 
students, and a white community worker and mother of three, the 
solicitor said that the defendants were "dangerous animals who should 

188 



Five 



be put away for the rest of their lives." The state reserved special venom 
for Rev. Chavis, comparing him to Adolph Hitler. Both "filled their 
followers with hate ... to make them do as they were told," Stroud told 
the jury. 

After seven weeks of trial, the jury returned in less than an hour with its 
verdict. The Charlotte Observer reported on October 18 of that year, 
"The courtroom's tense calm was broken by the loud moan of a young 
Black woman who slumped forward in tears as the word 'guilty* was 
twice recited after the name of Willie Earl Vereen, a Wilmington 10th 
grader who has missed most of his classes and practice with the Hoggard 
High School marching band because he's been on trial since September 
11." All 10 defendants were pronounced guilty as charged. Judge Martin 
announced that he would delay sentencing overnight and the 
Wilmington 10 were led from the courtroom. 

The defendants were placed in chains and put on the prison bus that 
had been backed up to the courthouse door. Several dozen supporters of 
the accused gathered behind a line of patrolmen, to sing "We Shall 
Overcome" and to recite the 23rd Psalm. SB1 agents on the scene reacted 
here were 10 defendants, 8 of them teenagers, who had never been The 10 
were turned over to Department of Corrections officers, who then pulled 
out their pistols and told those praying and singing to get back. Ten 
highway patrol cars and half as many SBI and local police cars escorted 
the Wilmington 10 to the jail in Jacksonville, home of ROWP chief Leroy 
Gibson, thirty-five miles and a county away. 

The next morning, they were awakened early, placed back in chains, 
put back on the bus, surrounded again by fifteen SBI and highway patrol 
cars and brought back to Burgaw for sentencing. Judge Martin asked for 
motions on sentencing and the defense requested lenience, arguing that 
here were 10 defendants, 8 of them teenagers, who had never been 
convicted of any crime. Mrs. Sheppard, they pointed out, suffered from 
hypertension and a jail experience could only be harmful. Ben requested 
that Ferguson not ask for lenience on his behalf because "I didn't want 
mercy from the state because I wasn't guilty." The prosecutors argued 
that the Wilmington 10 had to be put away for life, double the maximum, 
not to see the light of day again, to set an example, to teach society. One 
by one Judge Martin pronounced sentence: first, Mrs. Sheppard, 10 
years; then the 8 teenagers 20-25 years; finally, Rev. Ben Chavis, 29-34 
years, the longest sentence for arson in North Carolina history. All 
combined, the Wilmington 10 faced 282 years in prison. 

Again they were placed in shackles and leg irons and led out of the 
courthouse to the bus. This time they were going to Raleigh, the men to 

189 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Central Prison where Ben Chavis and Connie Tindall would stay, while 
the others were sent to Odom Prison Farm; Ann Sheppard would again 
be incarcerated in Women's Prison in Raleigh. As they marched toward 
the bus, they could see sharpshooters on the roof of the courthouse. 
Later, leaving town, they saw through the bars of bus windows other 
police marksmen on the roofs of the armed encampment that was 
downtown Burgaw. 

On the bus, the guards displayed their new weapons, M16s with 
infrared scopes, gifts of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration 
in Washington. The guards told their young prisoners that they hadn't 
used the weapons yet and were just waiting for the opportunity to try 
them. 

All 125 miles to Raleigh, Black people came out on the road to watch 
the prison bus and the cortege of a dozen police cars, and to wave good- 
bye to the Wilmington 10. 



Cj overnment repression of the civil rights movement was patterned 
after years of persecution of labor organizers, stretching back decades, to 
much before the Henderson cotton mill strike in the 1950s. 39 

Not without reason. A reading of U.S. labor history shows North 
Carolina to have been the site of some of the longest and bloodiest strikes 
and pitched battles. Tens of thousands of Tarheel workers have been 
evicted from company towns, jailed, brutalized and murdered in this 
century for attempting to organize themselves. 

In 1914, average hourly wages for Southern textile spinners ranged 
from 8 to 9 cents an hour. Hours had been charitably cut from 72 to 63 
per week, including for women and children. 40 The world war provided a 
boom for the looms, particularly in the Carolina Piedmont. Gaston 
County adopted the slogan, "Organize a mill a week," and had built 105 
mills by 1923. In 1929, it was the leading textile county in the South, and 
third in the nation, causing one union organizer to remark, "North 
Carolina is the key to the South, Gaston County is the key to North 
Carolina, and the Loray Mill is the key to Gaston County." 41 

The National Industrial Conference Board in 1920 computed that a 
minimum standard of living in Charlotte for a family of five would 
require $1,438 a year. But the average Tarheel textile worker's income 
was $730 in 1919, and dropped to $624 in 1921. Low wages became the 
magnet for Northern capital. One economist likened the Southern textile 
worker to the slave on the auction block. "Native whites!" he mimicked. 



190 



Five 

"Anglo-Saxons of the true blood! All English-speaking! Tractable, 
harmonious, satisfied with little! They know nothing of foreign-born 
radicalism! Come down and gobble them up!" 42 White mill workers' 
children were wage-slave counterparts to their Black chattel-slave fore- 
bears. A North Carolina mill doctor was asked, "How long do you 
believe it is safe ... to employ a girl 12 years of age in a cotton mill? ,, He 
answered, not over 10 or 12 hours a day. 43 

Union organizing drives were sporadic and only intermittently suc- 
cessful. In 1919, the United Textile Workers shifted their main attention 
to North Carolina after several defeats elsewhere. In that year of postwar 
prosperity, the union had 43 locals in the state and claimed 40,000 
members in North Carolina. But with the economic crisis of 1920-21, the 
mills started to shut down. Wages were cut by as much as 50 percent, the 
workers went out on strike, the strike waned without funding, and the 
workers returned to the mills under the gaze of the state militia, their 
wages still reduced by half, their union crushed. 

If Gaston County was the largest textile county in the South, the Loray 
Mill — started by locals at the turn of the century but acquired in 1923 by 
the Manville-Jenckes Corporation of Pawtucket, R.I. — was the largest 
in the county. The Loray Mill was in constant turmoil as management 
sought a return to halcyon days of yore, while the workers became 
increasingly unruly. In 1927 the mill brought in a new superintendent, 
G.A. Johnstone, who immediately increased work loads, sometimes 
doubling them, discharged workers on a whim, reduced the workforce 
from 3,500 to 2,200 and cut wages by 20 percent. The Loray workers took 
to the streets the next year, convincing management to replace 
Johnstone. 

The workers were hardly steeled in long years of class struggle. 
Gastonia lies at the approach to the Blue Ridge and, like most of the 
textile and furniture industry in North Carolina, the Loray Mill was 
established with an eye to lure mountain folk off their farms with 
promises of good cash wages. Come they did into these mill towns. 
Gastonia, dominated by Manville-Jenckes' Loray, was the prototype 
mill village. The company owned the general store, the churches, the 
recreational centers, the doctors, the teachers. The workers could not 
vote in local elections because they were not registered, or were registered 
in their home counties, or because they lived within the perimeter of 
unincorporated municipalities wholly owned by the mills. Manville- 
Jenckes could cut off credit at the company store, evict the worker and 
family from the company house, bar children from the company school, 
stop the worker from entering the company hospital, or even expel him 
from the company-owned church. 



191 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

On New Years Day 1929, Fred Beal, an organizer for the newly formed 
National Textile Workers U nion (NTWU) and a member of the Commu- 
nist Party, came to neighboring Charlotte where he set up shop. With 
occasional forays into Gastonia, Beal was able to organize a NTWU 
nucleus at the Loray Mill. The company reacted predictably and swiftly, 
summoning up among the white city fathers the same hatred, as WJ. 
Cash pointed out, that gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan. Communist union 
organizers coming South brought a sense of deja vu to a state that still 
collectively shuddered at the historical spectre of Northern troops 
securing Reconstruction. 

A company informer exposed the union core-group in the mill and on 
March 25, 1929, Loray fired five union members. Five days later, a 
thousand workers voted to strike. The next day, a majority of both shifts 
refused to work. Union demands called for equal pay for women and 
children, union recognition and a $20 minimum weekly wage. The 
demands were called "beyond reason" by company superintendent J. A. 
Baugh. After four days of picketing, the state militia was dispatched to 
Gastonia on April 4, ostensibly to protect private property, a task for 
which they proved singularly ineffective. On the evening of April 18, a 
mob of masked men attacked the union's headquarters, smashed its 
windows, destroyed the commissary and virtually demolished the pre- 
mises. While the mob raged, 250 militiamen slept less than 500 feet away. 
Eventually the militia was withdrawn but in its place the Loray Mill 
organized its own private army called the Committee of 100; plant 
foremen were deputized as sheriffs and policemen. 44 A reign of terror was 
launched against the striking workers. 

The union appealed to Governor Max Gardner for protection, and 
warned, "If you don't have us protected, we know how to protect 
ourselves/' 45 A tent colony was built to replace the destroyed union hall, 
protected by an armed security force of workers. Meanwhile the picket 
lines continued, suffering armed attacks by police and company thugs. A 
72-year-old woman supporting the strike was thrown to the ground and 
beaten with gun butts. One striker was blackjacked and thrown uncon- 
scious onto a railroad track. Striking families were evicted from com- 
pany houses and moved into the tent colony. The local press attacked the 
union, not only for its Communist leadership but for its advocacy of the 
equality of Black and white workers and its admission of both to 
membership. Although Blacks were 15 percent of the county population, 
few were allowed to work in the plant, except as sweepers. The Gastonia 
Daily Gazette published a front-page picture of an American flag with a 
snake coiled at its base, and the inscription: "Communism in the south 

192 



Five 



Kill it." Flyers were distributed asking, "Would you belong to a union 
which opposes White Supremacy?" 46 

By June, Gastonia had become a garrison city. On the afternoon of 
June 7, some local police went out on a drunk, and ended up beating up 
and shooting a local restaurant owner. One of the marauders was an ex- 
officer who had been fired from the force for beating up a local woman 
but who had since been brought back into service to help crush the strike. 
That night, these officers were part of a party that included police chief 
A.D. Aderholt, which raided the workers' tent colony without a warrant. 
When they were blocked from entering, the police opened fire. Four 
policemen and one organizer were shot; Chief Aderholt was mortally 
wounded and died the next day. The Committee of 100 led by Major A.L. 
Bulwinkle, formerly and subsequently a U.S. congressman and attorney 
for the Loray Mill, raided the camp en masse. More than a hundred 
striking men and women were thrown into jail and beaten. Of these, 23 
were held for murder or muderous assault. Beatings by the police and the 
Committee of 100 continued, but only one policeman was disciplined for 
excessive use of force, for beating a Charlotte Observer reporter whom 
he took to be a striker. The officer was immediately hired by Manville- 
Jencks as a security guard. 

On the eve of the murder trial, the Charlotte News editorialized: "The 
leaders of the National Textile Workers' Union are communists, and are 
a menace to all that we hold most sacred. They believe in violence, arson, 
murder. They want to destroy our institutions, our traditions. They are 
undermining all morality, all religion. But nevertheless they must be 
given a fair trial, although everyone knows that they deserve to be shot at 
sunrise." 47 The prosecution staff numbered 10, including Major Bul- 
winkle; R.G. Cherry, state commander of the American Legion; and 
Clyde Hoey, a brother-in-law of Governor Gardner. Heywood Broun, 
covering the trial for The Nation magazine, observed that "the officials of 
Gastonia have been from the beginning no more than the hired mus- 
keteers of the mill owners." 48 

When one of the trial jurors went violently insane, the judge declared a 
mistrial and ordered a new trial for September 30. News of the mistrial 
unleashed a reign of terror in Gaston and surrounding counties. The 
strikers' headquarters at Gastonia and Bessamer City were destroyed by 
raids of 500 men. NTWU organizers were kidnapped, flogged or tarred 
and feathered, and seven were arrested for "insurrection to overthrow the 
State of North Carolina." A workers' rally was called for September 14 in 
South Gastonia, in response to which American Legion members were 
deputized to close all roads leading to the meeting. Three days before the 

193 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

rally, the Gastonia Gazette editorialized, "They have been warned to stay 
away. If they persist in coming, they do so at their own risk. This is the 
word from the good people of that community who have been law- 
abiding about as long as they can stand it." 

On the night of the rally, a mob collected to prevent the meeting. A 
truck bearing 22 strikers from Bessamer City tried to enter South 
Gastonia and was turned back. Fifteen autos carrying strikebreakers set 
out in pursuit. After a five-mile chase the truck was stopped and a volley 
of shots was fired into the unarmed strikers. One of them, Mrs. Ella May 
Wiggins, a mother of five, was killed. A Gaston County grand jury 
refused to indict anybody in connection with the murder of Ella May 
Wiggins, but six weeks later after a national outcry, initiated by the 
International Labor Defense, Governor Gardner assigned a special 
prosecutor to reopen the case. Five employees of the Loray Mill were 
finally indicted. The Manville-Jenckes Company went their bail. When 
the case came to trial early the next year, all 5 were acquitted although the 
murder had been committed in the presence of at least 50 persons. 49 

The second trial of Fred Beal and the NTWU organizers in connection 
with the death of Chief Aderholt began in September 1929. By then the 
prosecution had withdrawn the first degree murder charge and had freed 
9 of the original 16 defendants, including the 3 women. This left the 
prosecution with a conspiracy indictment, but that was shattered when 
the surviving police in the raid on the tent colony testified under cross- 
examination that when they arrived at the colony, everything was 
peaceful, and that they had brought with them a number of shotguns and 
rifles in addition to the regular police equipment. The state then made its 
case on the basis of the defendants' beliefs in communism, racial equality 
and atheism. One defendant was discredited by the sparmy-minded 
prosecutor with the words, "If teaching racial equality does not tend to 
impeach a witness, I do not know what would." Another defense witness 
was impeached for denying the existence of "a Supreme Being who 
punishes for wrong and rewards for virtues." In his summation to the 
jury, prosecutor E.T. Cansler argued, "The union organizers came, 
fiends incarnate, stripped of their hoofs and horns, bearing guns instead 
of pitchforks." 50 After 57 minutes of deliberation the jury returned a 
verdict of guilty. Judge Barnhill sentenced Beal and three other northern 
defendants to 17-20 years in the state prison; two Gastonia men received 
12-15 years, the other, 5-7 years. One year later, on August 20, 1930, the 
Supreme Court of North Carolina upheld their sentences. 

Southern justice had proven consistent. A North Carolina journalist 
wrote in summary of the Gastonia events: "In every case where strikers 

194 



Five 



were put on trial, strikers were convicted; in not one case where anti- 
unionists or officers were accused has there been a conviction." 51 The 
state of labor relations that pertain today in North Carolina were 
established in those grim days of the Loray strike and its aftermath. 

Actually, with the depression, things got worse. Calvin Coolidge in 
one of his moments that made folks wish he'd live up more to his 
nickname of "Silent Cal," once observed that "When more and more 
people are thrown out of work, unemployment results." The labor 
movement faced a crisis. The American Federation of Labor had refused 
to extend itself beyond narrow craft-union boundaries. The AFL's 
United Textile Workers had avoided Gastonia, in part because of the 
Communist leadership of the NTWU. "This aristocracy of labor," 
Haywood Broun wrote of the AFL, "is taking time out to consolidate its 
gains. If the communists did not organize the workers of Gastonia, 
nobody else would." 52 Southern textile owners, however, were not 
always discerning enough to make such distinctions, when it came to 
their workers. In his classic The Mind of the South (which might, more 
accurately, have been entitled, "The Mind of the White South"), W.J. 
Cash suggested, 

. . . Almost the sole content of immediate actuality in these phantasmagoric 
[Red] terrors was, as is well known, just the peril of the labor movement, to the 
interests, real or imagined, of the ruling classes, and particularly the pos- 
sibility of a labor movement that should stand to the left of the highly 
conservative American Federation of Labor as shaped by Samuel Gompers, 
William Green and Matthew Woll. 

And when that is clear, the case of the South becomes more explicable. If 
the Yankee manufacturer, long accustomed to labor unions, could be so 
wrought upon fears that he could without conscious hypocrisy, though of 
course not without the unconscious cunning of interest, see even the lumber- 
ing AFL as at least dangerously close to being Red, then it is readily 
comprehensible how the Southern cotton-mill baron, remembering unhap- 
pily its occasional forays into his territory, should get to see it as the flaming 
archangel of Moscow itself — why the organs of the Southern trade, such as 
the Textile Bulletin and the Manufacturers' Record, promptly set up the 
formula: labor organizer equals Communist organizer. 53 

Partially in response to the NTWU drive in Gaston and Mecklenburg 
counties, the AFL's United Textile Workers came to Marion in 
McDowell County, also in 1929 and met with a similar response. The 
Marion Manufacturing Co. and the Clinchfield Mills ran the mountain 
city as Manville-Jenckes ran Gastonia. None of the company houses in 

195 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Marion's mill villages had running water or toilets. The houses were built 
on stilts, with no wind-breaking foundations. Sinclair Lewis went to 
Marion to investigate and reported: "A four-room house, in which 12 
people may be living, is just this: It is a box with an unscreened porch. It 
has three living rooms and a kitchen. In each of the living rooms there 
are, normally, two double beds. In these double beds there sleep any- 
where from two to five people, depending on their ages." 54 Wages at the 
plants averaged less than $10 a week, and at least one case was discovered 
of a 14-year-old girl working more than 12 hours a day for $5 a week. 

When an open meeting of the UTW was held in June, 22 union 
members were fired. Marion Manufacturing president R.W. Baldwin 
rejected demands to reinstate the fired workers, to reduce shifts to 10 
hours, and to establish a grievance committee. With little help from 
either the AFL or the UTW, the plant's 650 workers struck. The 
Clinchfield workers, 900 of them, joined the strike. Clinchfield president 
B.M. Hart declared, "I cannot see that there is any difference between 
this so-called conservative union and the Communist union in Gas- 
tonia." As the strike continued, scuffles broke out on picket lines, and the 
company won an injunction against the demonstration. Governor 
Gardner, himself a textile mill owner from Shelby, again sent in the 
militia. Baldwin blacklisted more than a hundred workers in his plant. 
The pattern established in Gastonia was repeated. When, on August 31, 
Clinchfield strikers prevented a non-union worker from moving into a 
mill-village house, 74 strikers were arrested and charged with "a rebellion 
against the constituted authority of the State of North Carolina." 

In the early morning hours of October 2, workers walked out of the 
Baldwin mill, because of harassment by the foreman. As they gathered at 
the plant gate to tell the day shift of the strike, Sheriff Oscar Adkins, a 
local merchant, fired tear gas into their ranks. His 1 1 deputies, taking the 
cue, shot at the backs of the retreating workers. When the shooting 
ended, 6 strikers lay dead, 25 seriously wounded. In an interview with the 
Asheville Citizen the next day, Baldwin said: "I understand 60 or 75 shots 
were fired in Wednesday's fight. If this is true, there are 30 or 35 of the 
bullets accounted for. I think the officers are damned good marksmen. If 
I ever organize an army they can have jobs with me. I read that the death 
of each soldier in the World War consumed more than five tons of lead. 
Here we have less than five pounds and these casualties. A good average, 
I call it." 55 Eight deputies were charged with second-degree murder. At 
the time, one of the defendants was put on $2,000 bond for shooting up 
the union headquarters. He and five other non-union workers in the 
Marion plant had been deputized by Sheriff Adkins. Pleading that they 

196 



Five 



fired in order to suppress a riot, the deputies were found not guilty. One 
historian concluded, "Against the anti-union policy of the southern mill 
owners the United Textile Workers, affiliated with the conservative 
AFL, had fared no better than the National Textile Workers Union," 
under Communist leadership in Gastonia. 56 In the cemeteries where the 
murdered workers are buried, "there is no argument about the best 
method of running Southern textile mills," wrote Sinclair Lewis. The 
labor peace long sought by the textile owners turned out to be the peace 
of the graveyard, 

Illusions of an impartial government, weighing equally the interests of 
labor and those of capital, were shattered. In Belmont, a militiaman ran 
an unmenacing striker through with a bayonet and killed him, but the 
authorities did nothing. Not one conviction was obtained in any major 
case of violence directed against strikers, not in the killing of Mrs. 
Wiggins, nor in the destruction of union headquarters in Gastonia, nor in 
the killings and maimings in Marion, nor in the kidnappings and 
beatings of union organizers in Elizabethtown, Kings Mountain, Char- 
lotte or a dozen other towns and villages in North Carolina. But the 
Marion strikers who were arrested on the picket lines were given up to six 
months of hard labor; and the unionists accused in the Aderholt slaying, 
up to twenty years. The intertwining of the state and the corporation to 
determine not only labor conditions but the nature of the criminal justice 
system is a relationship that would hold, strengthen and become identical 
with time. 



D uring Ben's first week back in Central Prison after the trial, a Black 
inmate leader named Charles Richardson was burned alive in his cell one 
night. Some white inmates, assisted by the guards, threw a five-gallon 
can of paint thinner into his cell, lit a broom handle, and set him on fire. 
The guards ignored his screams until he was thoroughly incinerated. 

A few weeks later, another Black inmate, John Cuttino from Durham, 
was burned to death a few cells down the corridor from Ben. It was about 
1 1:30 at night and all the inmates were locked in their cells, which left only 
the guards with an opportunity. Ben could hear Cuttino's cries for help 
and saw flames reaching out of the cell. Ben and the other men shouted 
for the guards but they didn't come for 15 minutes. By then, a partially 
burned Bible was one of Cuttino's few possessions left recognizable in the 
cell. 

Because the smoke was about to suffocate other inmates on the upper 

197 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

tiers in the cellblock, the prisoners were taken outside to the yard. This 
was Ben's first opportunity to meet with the other inmates at one time. 
Since his arrival at Central the authorities had kept him from meeting 
with the general inmate population. When the guards saw the prisoners 
meeting in the yard, they ordered the men into the cafeteria. The guards 
knew they could shoot tear gas on the prisoners in the dining hall with 
much greater effect than in the yard. Some 400 men crowded into the 
cafeteria that was built to hold only a fourth that number. Ben got up and 
called the inmates together for some order. 

After discussion, the men decided they were not returning to their cells. 
They wanted to meet with the warden and with Lee Bounds, the head of 
the state corrections department. The prisoners were aware of their peril. 
Bounds had ordered the massacre at Central in 1968 in which at least 6 
inmates were killed and 50 were wounded. But the danger of returning to 
their cells— after the killings of the young Panther, Joe Waddell, and 
now Charles Richardson and John Cuttino — was also clear and present. 
Fletcher K. Sanders, the chief of security for Central's west wing, came 
into the cafeteria, walked into the middle of the inmates and ordered 
them to clear out of the cafeteria in 30 seconds. The hall fell silent. Then 
Ben stood up and told Sanders that they weren't leaving until they saw 
the warden and Lee Bounds, that they had violated no prison regula- 
tions, that they were ordered into the cafeteria by the guards and would 
stay until it was safe to return to the west wing. 

Sanders appealed to the men not to listen to Rev. Chavis, and said that 
he was a troublemaker who would get them all hurt; that if they didn't 
leave in 30 seconds, he was going to deal harshly as only a prison security 
chief, left unchecked, can deal. Ben again said the men were not leaving. 
He accused Sanders of attempting to provoke them into doing something 
that would precipitate a repetition of the 1968 assault. Ben asked the 
inmates to sit and remain sitting. Only 2 of the 400 got up and left; one of 
them turned around on his way out and came back. A leader of the white 
inmates stood up and pleaded for his companions to stay, arguing that 
they had a stake in this resistance too because it wasn't safe for them in 
the west wing either. 

Two hours later, an announcement came through on the loudspeaker 
to the effect that the warden wanted to see Ben Chavis in the yard. The 
inmates wouldn't let him leave, however. The assassination of George 
Jackson at San Quentin and the pogrom at Attica the year before were 
still fresh memories. One of the men in the cafeteria had a portable 
transistor radio, which was reporting a "rebellion" at Central Prison. The 
inmates had "captured" the cafeteria already, it was reported. The death 

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Five 

of John Cuttino by fire that night was not mentioned on the news. But the 
men did learn that Lee Bounds was at the prison and had been there all 
night. 

Bounds, who served the prison system for 21 years under Democratic 
administrations, started out in 1949 as a young law professor. After 
becoming involved in a case in which a chain-gang prisoner was hand- 
cuffed to his cell bars for 70 hours for telling another inmate that he was 
thirsting for a beer, Bounds soon joined the University of North Car- 
olina's Institute of Government and found prominence as a penologist. 
Bounds recalls, "I just happened to hit it right. There had been a riot at 
Central, and the issue of reform was very much in the air." He counts 
among his great achievements the elimination of the stepchain. Knowing 
that an outright ban on leg-chains would be resisted by guards, he 
suggested that they be fastened on prisoners each day rather than 
permanently riveted on. The guards eventually found this inconvenient 
and eliminated the practice by disuse. By 1959, the balls-and-chains were 
banned altogether. Still Bounds, whom Will Rogers obviously never 
met, lamented the bad that comes with the good, "It was when we did 
away with the chains, the lash and other forms of discipline that we lost 
control of the population within the old dormitories. We had to herd 
them in and try to control them with the threat of shooting." 

Now, the night of the death of John Cuttino, Bounds finally sent word 
he would meet with a delegation of the prisoners. Five were chosen: three 
Blacks including Ben, and two whites. Bounds explained right off that he 
was not at Central in response to their demands, but just kind of 
happened to be in the neighborhood. He would, however, hear them out. 
By then the prisoners had drawn up a list of ten grievances to present. 
They wanted an inmate grievance board, the right of inmates to have 
attorneys at disciplinary hearings, five fire extinguishers on each cell 
block, etc. Bounds replied that as a reputed penologist, professor at 
Chapel Hill and head of the corrections department, he was their 
superior, and worked and communicated on a different level. But what 
he had here apparently was not a failure by the inmates to communicate. 
Negotiations began which eventually resulted in the setting up of an 
inmate grievance commission, allowing prisoners to have their attorneys 
along for the hearing. And that day, five fire extinguishers were installed 
in the west wing at Central Prison, for the first time in its more than 100- 
year history. 

Central is no worse than most of the 76 other units that make up the 
Raleigh Archipelago. Guards administer medicine instead of medics, 
and sick call is held only twice a week, with inspections conducted on 

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Nothing Could Be Finer 

desktops. Medical equipment and sterilization are unknown elements in 
these inspections. Inmates have a 10-month waiting period for false teeth. 
Until 1974, the entire prison system had no preventive medicine nor food 
dietician of any kind; one oral surgeon worked half a day a week. In 
recent years, unnatural deaths of prisoners have averaged one every four 
weeks, according to Charles Wilson, research director for the Depart- 
ment of Social and Rehabilitation and Control. 

The Raleigh Archipelago has come into some notoriety in the 1970s, 
largely through the work of the North Carolina Advisory Committee to 
the U nited States Commission on Civil Rights, and through a number of 
lawsuits filed by the nascent North Carolina Prisoners' Union. In 
February 1976, the Advisory Committee, chaired by Rev. W.W. Finla- 
tor, issued a report of its findings after conducting public hearings, 
independent research and first-hand on-site inspections of several pris 
ons. The Committee found that, while nearly 60 percent of the inmates 
are Black, the Division of Prisons had no Black superintendents at its 77 
facilities; only 21.4 percent of the more than 5,000 employees were Black; 
among professionals, no women could be found. One full-time doctor 
and a quarter-time dentist were the only Blacks in the upper *ank:. 
Sadism characterized the guards' behavior toward the inmates. Women 
were disciplined by denying them clothing until "her attitude changed." 
(Almost 20 percent of the staff at the Women's Correctional Center were 
men.) At Central Prison, fire hoses with nozzle pressure of about 70 
pounds and pump pressure of about 120 pounds were used to knock 
down the inmates. 

The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling in January 1976 on a 
prisoners' suit, substantially upheld the findings of the Finlator Commit- 
tee. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, who sat as a 
member of the circuit court, said that Central's "Chinese cell" was "so 
bizarre that it is difficult to believe that such a situation could exist in our 
■ ociety." He said the cell is "reminiscent of the Black Hole of Calcutta." 
According to the court, the cell has "no bedding, no light and no toilet 
facilities, save a hole in the floor." Some prisoners have been placed in the 
cell for up to three months at a time. 

Clark's opinion noted that federal courts are "most reluctant to 
interfere in the administration of state or federal prison systems," but 
argued that the abuses in North Carolina were so severe that the court 
was compelled to act. 



With the violent suppression of the 1929 labor upsurge and the 
scarcity of jobs in the years to come, the textile barons "successfully 

200 



Five 

combined the personal relationships of an agrarian society with modern 
personnel methods, re-established channels of communication with their 
'people,' tutored overseers to shun arbitrary command, and cultivated in 
the factory an environment of living folkways." 57 Not that the re- 
established carrot eliminated the stick: A Senate subcommittee on civil 
liberties, headed by Robert M. LaFollette, Jr., found that twenty 
Southern textile firms laid out hundreds of thousands of dollars between 
1933-37, the years studied by the subcommittee, for the spying and 
strikebreaking services of the Pinkerton agency and others. Of eighty 
corporations in the country that purchased more than a thousand dollars 
of tear gas and poison gas in those years, nine were Southern textile 
companies, two were textile subsidiaries of rubber firms, and one was an 
employers association in North Carolina's Alamance County. 58 The 
"cheap and contented labor" advertised by Southern textile and power 
company owners to attract Northern capital had proved to be a bit more 
quarrelsome than expected. 

In 1935 the Congress of Industrial Organizations was formed and its 
drive for industrial unionization challenged the older, conservative and 
craft-oriented AFL. Moreover— and in no small part due to the Commu- 
nist influence in the organizing drives — no CIO national union excluded 
Black members nor shunted them into "Jim Crow" locals. There was 
only one exception to this rule — the Textile Workers Union of Amer- 
ica—an exception that helped to dictate the future course of labor and 
race relations for North Carolina. 59 By the end of the decade which saw 
labor organized as never before throughout the United States, virtually 
no mills in North Carolina were unionized. 

Roosevelt's National Industrial Recovery Act, which lasted until 1937, 
demanded an industrial code recognizing labor's collective bargaining 
rights. The Tobacco Workers International Union, of the AFL, which 
had until then been active only on the fringes of the industry, began to 
move into Winston-Salem and Durham. The momentum of the NRA 
period carried past 1937. Workers at American, Liggett & Myers, P.J. 
Lorillard all came into the union. 

At R.J. Reynolds, the largest tobacco corporation in the capitalist 
world, the CIO's Food, Tobacco and Allied Workers (FT A), under 
Communist leadership, won a contract in 1944. FTA's Local 22 for years 
represented the largest single organized industrialized enterprise in the 
South. It was not a victory that came easily. The founder of the Reynolds 
monopoly, Richard Joseph Reynolds, came to Winston-Salem from the 
family plantation in Virginia. His father had been one of the largest 

201 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

slaveholders in the country, and his progeny were to carry over a similar 
set of labor relations into the twentieth century. Foremen were recruited 
from among the chain-gang guards on the country roads. Workers in the 
plants had no lunch facilities, no decent rest rooms, no sick leaves, no 
vacations, no seniority, no paid holidays, no job security. The big FTA 
organizing drive came in June 1943 when a sick Black worker dropped 
dead on the job after his foreman refused to let him go home. A sit-down 
strike began in the dead man's room and several other departments 
joined in spontaneously. Seven thousand Reynolds workers soon joined 
the union. When three years later they finally got a contract that granted 
more than union recognition, it provided a 40-hour week with time-and- 
a-half for overtime, paid vacations and holidays, grievance procedures, 
and the largest wage gains in the history of the industry. 60 

FTA militance, with Communist insistence, depended on the unity of 
Black and white workers operating as a single unit. Even the CIO top 
leadership in those days provided "colored hotel" accommodations for 
its Black convention delegates, and allowed for segregated toilets and 
drinking facilities in unionized Southern plants. After the world war, in 
announcing Operation Dixie, its Southern organizing drive, the CIO 
announced it would respect the "traditions of the South." 

In a state where segregation was required by law, the FTA's Winston- 
Salem local with 10,000 members comprised an obvious threat to 
companies which as a matter of course play white against Black to keep 
wages down. Miranda Smith, a Black woman worker at Reynolds, 
earning 40 cents an hour in 1940, rose to the leadership of Local 22. A 
Communist Party militant, she eventually became director at the age of 
32 of the FTA's south Atlantic region. She died shortly thereafter and 
was memorialized by the biggest funeral procession in Winston-Salem 
history, at which Paul Robeson sang to thousands of Black and white 
workers. It was largely Miranda Smith's leadership in the efforts at unity 
of the workers that brought the wrath of the companies, the state and the 
CIO bureaucracy down on the FTA. 

Local 22 paid dearly for its efforts and its principles. In 1946 the union 
waged a bitter strike against the Piedmont Leaf Tobacco Company in 
Winston-Salem. The union was asking 65 cents an hour. Company- 
influenced police were especially brutal against Black strikers. Mrs. 
Margaret DeGraffenried, mother of four, was beaten by police during 
the strike and sentenced to three months on a road gang. Cal Roberson 
Jones, a worker at another tobacco plant, who happened to pass by the 
Piedmont plant, was beaten by police and sentenced to eight months on 
the chain gang. A white Local 22 organizer, Philip Koritz, came to Jones' 

202 



Five 



defense during the beating, and was himself beaten and sentenced to six 
months on a road gang. Betty Keel Williams, a young woman striker, was 
given 30 days. 61 

The House Committee on Un-American Activities, which included 
among its members freshman Richard Nixon, came to Winston-Salem 
and set up shop at the Robert E. Lee Hotel. The Cold War was now in full 
force, the "first shot fired" directed at the Left within the trade union 
movement. Ten international unions were expelled from the CIO for 
their Left leadership, among them the FTA. Local 22 was targeted for 
destruction through raiding by other CIO unions. Scores of CIO person- 
nel came to Winston-Salem to undermine the FTA. The first anti- 
Communist law of the Cold War period, the Taft-Hartley Law, made 
Communist membership and leadership in unions illegal and curtailed 
the right to strike. Taft-Hartley was passed in 1947, and immediately 
afterward North Carolina passed one of the first "right to work" laws in 
the country, outlawing the closed union shop. Armed with Taft-Hartley, 
the "right to work" law and the collaboration of the CIO national 
leadership, Reynolds Tobacco was able to "destabilize" Local 22, 25 
years before that word became synonymous in government jargon with 
the forcible overthrow of legally elected bodies. In a 1950 National Labor 
Relations Board election at the R.J. Reynolds plants in Winston-Salem, 
Local 22 emerged on top with 3,223 votes. However, the AFL's tobacco 
union received 1,514; a CIO splinter union, 521; and "no union," 3,426. 
Reynolds refused to enter into collective bargaining with the FTA, and 
has now remained unorganized for a quarter of a century. 62 One result of 
the Reynolds open shop is a productivity rate about three times that of 
union shops. 63 According to former Reynolds vice-president Charles 
Wade, the FTA's union drive "was primarily a Negro issue," but "now 
we've licked that problem and there is no need for a union." 64 

It is no credit to the TWIU that today Reynolds, the open-shop 
employer, has the biggest Black employment— 25 percent — in the tobac- 
co industry, although even that is half of what it used to be. The TWIU 
originally signed "sweetheart contracts" over the heads of the workers at 
Liggett & Myers, Reynolds, American and Lorillard in the union's salad 
days during the first world war. But in the post-war period Reynolds 
reduced wages in its plants without resistance from the union; conse- 
quently, TWIU membership declined from 15,000 in 1916 to 1,500 in 1925. 

The TWIU's segregationist policies have plagued its efforts to organize 
Black workers at Reynolds ever since. Hence, the FTA, under the 
initiative of the Southern Negro Youth Congress, was able to organize 
Reynolds and win the National Labor Relations Board election in 1944, 

203 



Nothing Could Be Finer 



where the TWIU could not. That defeat moved the TW1U to resolve in 
1946 not to organize any local plants on a segregated basis. But the gap 
between resolutions and performances became an abyss in this case. In 
the 1950s new white workers were employed while Black TWIU members 
were laid off with little union opposition. The influence of the Klan and 
White Citizens Council in local union leadership led to the disturbing 
situation of at least token integration at non-union Reynolds and not 
even a token at unionized plants. 

With new federal civil rights laws, some gains were made in the years 
1964-68. A few Black workers were upgraded to more skilled positions, 
and the union merged its Black and white locals. Even so, Blacks 
remained the only janitors and the only shippers, except for their white 
foremen. With the introduction of mechanization, these jobs were 
gradually but substantially reduced, thus affecting mainly the Black 
workers. Whereas in 1940 Blacks constituted 54.9 percent of the tobacco 
workforce in North Carolina, by 1950 they were reduced to 42.3 percent, 
and by 1960, 31.6 percent. Today Blacks are merely 22 percent of the 
tobacco workforce in the state, which contains 46 percent of all cigarette 
workers and 35 percent of all tobacco workers in the country. 65 



1 hat was November 30, 1972, when Ben led the prisoner delegation to 
meet Corrections Secretary Lee Bounds to secure some protection from 
fire. On December 16, the United Church of Christ paid a $50,000 appeal 
bond and Rev. Chavis walked out of Central Prison to begin the long 
appeals process for the Wilmington 10. The next day he flew to New York 
to participate in a conference that was preparatory to establishing a 
national organization to defend political activists and victims of repres- 
sion. The meeting was initiated by remnants of what had been the 
National United Committee to Free Angela Davis and all Political 
Prisoners, which had built perhaps the greatest mass movement in 
history around a single prisoner. Angela Davis was herself on hand for 
the conference that day and Ben also met Charlene Mitchell, who had 
organized the Angela Davis defense movement. Other organizations that 
were helping put together this new movement included the National 
Conference of Black Lawyers, the Attica Brothers Defense Fund, Puerto 
Rican Socialist Party, Communist Party, the anti-war People's Coalition 
for Peace and Justice, Women's International League for Peace and 
Freedom, the Commission for Racial Justice and others. Ben had the 
opportunity to meet his counterparts from other movements and to 




204 



Five 



acquaint them for the first time with the situation in North Carolina, 
which even the more knowledgeable among them still considered a New 
South showcase. The day-long meeting was an important experience for 
Rev. Chavis and his new companions, and together they agreed to begin 
work on a founding conference for their new national organization. 

Meantime, in Wilmington things were still out of hand. The Rights of 
White People continued to build up their arms caches, hold park rallies 
with arms drills, and ride in caravans through Black neighborhoods to 
intimidate the people. With the release of the Rev. Chavis from prison, 
new assaults were launched against Wilmington Blacks. This, despite the 
fact that Ben had been assigned to direct the Washington, D.C. -Mary- 
land office of the Commission for Racial Justice. 

Ben still faced charges in the Wilmington Three case with Molly and 
Leatrice Hicks, and trial was scheduled for late Spring 1973, only a few 
months away. This was to be one of the strangest cases in the history of 
North Carolina jurisprudence, a history hardly void of anomalies. Molly 
Hicks had been one of the most active adults in support of the 
Wilmington student movement and Leatrice came out of that movement 
to join the Temple of the Black Messiah. In the wake of the violence at the 
Gregory Memorial Church in February 1971, Molly Hicks had asked for 
police protection for her house in which she and Leatrice lived alone. On 
the evening of March 13, Molly Hicks was at her Seventh Day Adventist 
church. Leatrice was asleep in the upstairs of the house. Three young 
Black teenagers, Clifton Eugene Wright, Jerome McClain and Donald 
Nixon, were downstairs in the parlor. As reported on the next day's news, 
someone knocked on the door, Clifton Wright went to the door and an 
unidentified white person blew his head off. Ben was at home in Oxford 
at the time, but three months later the FBI asked to interview him, Molly 
and Leatrice Hicks. The three agreed to the interview if it could be held in 
James Ferguson's law office in Charlotte. It was peculiar enough that 
Ben and Molly Hicks should have been questioned at all, since even the 
government agreed they were nowhere near the house at the time of the 
murder. When the FBI asked Ben who might have killed young Wright, 
he answered that he had no knowledge but guessed, given Molly and 
Leatrice Hicks' activities, it might have been an ROWP night rider. 

When, months later, in December 1971, a week after the federal 
indictments came down against Ben and Jim Grant, Ben was arrested 
again, this time with the two Hicks women, they found that Donald 
Nixon and Jerome McClain were also in jail. In the months since Wright 
was killed, Nixon and McClain had become narcotics addicts and had 
pulled off a number of burglaries and robberies around Wilmington. 

205 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

Now, in jail, they signed a statement saying that they had accidentally 
killed Wright, although the gun was never discovered and they had no 
idea where the murder weapon could be. Further, the Nixon-McClain 
story went, they called Ben in Oxford and he made up the story about the 
white man for them to tell the police; and Molly and Leatrice went along 
with the story. Hence the arrests of Rev. Chavis, Molly and Leatrice 
Hicks on charges of accessory after the fact of murder, with bond set at 
$10,000 each (and Ben's bail raised to $100,000 when he told a Charlotte 
meeting that he someday wanted to visit Africa). Meanwhile, McClain, 
one of the admitted "murderers" was released outright, and Nixon, who 
had also confessed, was let off with $3,000 bond on charges of involun- 
tary manslaughter. What was so peculiar about the state's case was that 
by allowing Nixon to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter, the 
prosecution and the courts thereby ruled that Wright's death was 
accidental. Yet they charged Rev. Chavis and the Hickses with knowl- 
edge of a murder which the state had already ruled did not really happen. 

While Ben prepared his defense, he continued to work for the founding 
of the new national defense organization. In the call to the founding 
conference, the coalition argued that "North Carolina has particularly 
become a laboratory for new methods of racist repression." Here was a 
group that filled a great need as far as Ben was concerned — a group made 
up of diverse forces with long years of experience in organized mass 
defense of other victims like himself — Angela Davis, the Puerto Rican 
Nationalist Party leaders, the Wounded Knee defendants, the San 
Quentin Six, the Attica Brothers, the Soledad Brothers. Moreover this 
was to be a national organization, and heretofore national attention had 
not been paid to the repression gripping North Carolina. Had there been 
a national movement in defense of the Wilmington 10, they might have 
won their case, Ben thought. There were other reasons for the lack of 
national attention on the Wilmington 10 trial, not the least of which were 
popular illusions about North Carolina as a bastion of the New Southern 
liberalism, and the abandonment of the civil rights movement by North- 
ern liberals when that movement came North. Further, there were the 
particulars of the case itself: These were, after all, political activists, not 
merely "victims" and one needed to support that activism rather than 
simply "take pity." That there were ten defendants rather than only one, 
around whose single personality support could be garnered, also pre- 
sented problems. But more than anything else, what was missing was a 
national organization, whose purpose was to build a mass movement in 
defense of the Wilmington 10. Especially had this been needed at the trial 
level, the most favorable time to mount such an effort. Now it would be 

206 



Five 



difficult for the Wilmington 10 in the appeals process, but the 
Wilmington Three case was still at the pre-trial stage. 

Meeting in Chicago on May 11-13, 1973, what was to become the 
National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression was founded 
by 800 delegates representing churches, trade unions, community organi- 
zations and campus groups, veterans' movements and political parties. 
The fledgling organization adopted a vast and varied program of ac- 
tivities to combat the many forms of repression, from police brutality to 
repressive legislation, from behavior control and human experimenta- 
tion to the repression of labor rights. The conference agreed that in North 
Carolina could be found the most intensive and comprehensive wave of 
repression in the United States, and agreed to make North Carolina a 
national focus of its activities. Immediate attention would be paid to 
building national support for the Wilmington Three in their upcoming 
trial the next month. And Rev. Ben Chavis was elected a vice-chairper- 
son of the new National Alliance. 

On the eve of the Wilmington Three trial, a new wave of terror hit 
Wilmington. ROWP dynamite blasts leveled the offices of the 
Wilmington Journal, which had served the town's Black community 
since 1911. The rubble that was the Journal building stood only 50 feet 
away from an empty lot which had been the site of the Record, 
Wilmington's Black newspaper during Reconstruction, which was 
burned to the ground by the Redshirts during the violent overthrow of 
the Fusion government in 1898. An ad-hoc group, the Wilmington 
Committee to Defend Victims of Racist and Political Repression, began 
to rally Wilmingtonians to defend against further terror. It called upon 
national civil rights and Black leaders to come to Wilmington to show 
their support of the Wilmington Three and other victims. Among those 
who responded were Congressman John Conyers who sent a staff 
assistant; the Commission for Racial Justice under the leadership of 
Dr. Charles Cobb of New York; the Southern Conference Education 
Fund, which sent a full-time organizer, Judi Simmons, to work in 
Wilmington. Judi Simmons had also been elected a vice-chairperson of 
the newly-formed National Alliance Against Racist and Political Re- 
pression. The National Alliance sent one of its chairpersons, Angela 
Davis, and its executive secretary, Charlene Mitchell. 

At the outset of the trial, defense attorneys asked that the charges be 
removed from the state of North Carolina and placed under federal 
jurisdiction. The defendants' petition argued that "the judicial system 
under which the defendants are required to be tried in New Hanover 
County, including the judges, the prosecutors and the prospective jurors 

207 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

and the police officers, is antagonistic toward the defendants and persons 
of their race"; and further, that a fair trial was unlikely for the defendants 
because of their designation "by the state to be civil rights activists who 
stir up trouble in the Black community by encouraging the Black 
community to actively assert its civil and constitutional rights", and that 
the Wilmington city government which was pressing the charges, was 
illegally constituted and had been since the 1898 coup d'etat. District 
Court Judge John M. Walker, who had earlier called for Lieutenant 
William Cally, the My Lai murderer, to "clean up" Wilmington, was 
sitting on the bench when the Wilmington Three petition was presented. 
After reading it, Judge Walker told the press that the government allows 
"these kind of people to operate, and if you declare the government 
unconstitutional, that means open season on everyone, doesn't it?" 

The request for transfer to federal jurisdiction was dismissed but as the 
trial began, Solicitor Jay Stroud did move to reduce the charge against 
Rev. Chavis and Molly and Leatrice Hicks to "accessory after the fact of 
involuntary manslaughter." Public pressure was beginning to make itself 
felt. Angela Davis, who attended the trial for its duration, addressed a 
rally of 4,000 Wiimingtonians, the largest civil rights demonstration in 
the town's history. Even while she spoke to the throng, several blocks 
away ROWP bombs blasted a gaping hole in the front of the B'nai Israel 
Temple synagogue. The threats began to tell on the defense attorneys and 
some of their supporters. Some from the defense team and even some of 
his co-workers urged Rev. Chavis and the Hicks women to plea-bargain, 
to agree to say they were guilty in return for reduced sentences. But the 
defendants insisted they were innocent and that it would be a betrayal of 
themselves and the movement they represented to enter a false plea, 
however expedient it might seem to some of their friends. 

The prosecution and the courts were under even greater pressure as 
national attention was brought on Wilmington for the first time, and as 
Wilmington Three supporters responded in the streets. Chief prosecu- 
tion witness Donald Nixon told the court, under cross-examination, that 
even though he had pleaded guilty six months earlier to involuntary 
manslaughter in the killing of Clifton Wright, he had never been 
sentenced. Judge Robert D. Rouse, Jr., sitting while protests in the 
streets mounted with the appearance of Angela Davis, dismissed all 
charges against Rev. Chavis, citing the lack of any incriminating evi- 
dence for the prosecution. This left Molly and Leatrice Hicks to face a 
jury decision. Defense attorney John Harmon asked the jurors to use 
their common sense in their verdict. "You know who the state was 
looking for in this case," he said. "It wasn't these two women." The jury 

208 



Five 



hopelessly deadlocked in deciding the fate of Leatrice Hicks and the case 
against her ended in a mistrial. Molly Hicks was found guilty but given a 
suspended three-year sentence. Donald Nixon, the admitted killer, never 
did serve time. 

Ben went directly from Wilmington to St. Louis to attend the Eighth 
General Synod of the United Church of Christ. The Commission for 
Racial Justice had initiated a resolution to have the church put up the 
$350,000 bond to get the other nine Wilmington 10 defendants out of 
prison. The assembly passed the resolution and two weeks later all the 
Wilmington defendants were released on bond. 



1 he textile monopolies have always led North Carolina against union- 
ization, and North Carolina has led the country. In 1955, the National 
Right to Work Committee was formed by Charlotte's E.S. Dillard. Scott 
Hoyman, southern director of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile 
Workers Union (ACTWU), says that companies, as a "style of life,"'' 
won't enter into union contracts, much as "violent racism was once a 
style of life. ,, A bit inhibited from directly using racism themselves, "the 
textile firms instead turn their mailing lists over to anti-Semitic, anti- 
Black trash sheets like the Militant Truth. J. P. Stevens is one company 
that supports this rag." 66 The Militant Truth is a frequently, though 
irregularly, published fundamentalist newsletter, which exhibits the 
thought process of a Klan-like White Queen, believing as many as six 
impossible things about Jews, Blacks and unions before breakfast. 

Virtually all corporate spokesmen in North Carolina are by now 
reconciled, at least in public statements, to the demise of Jim Crow as a 
way of life. But they will bark at the skies and spit in the wind at the 
mention of unions. Charlotte corporation attorney Whiteford S. 
Blakeney, according to Hoyman, will drop a client if the client agrees to 
bargain with a union, thus proving he can wield an axe by chopping off 
his foot. Blakeney is a trustee of the National Right to Work Legal 
Defense Foundation, Inc., established in 1968, which works through the 
courts to complement the legislative lobbying of the earlier formed 
National Right to Work Committee. 

The state legislature being as it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the 
corporations and banks, Blakeney and his colleagues have found little 
trouble in maintaining"right to work" laws in North Carolina. State laws 
prohibit public employees from bargaining collectively with their em- 
ployer, the state, and in turn prevent the state, cities and towns from 




209 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

bargaining with public employees' unions. Laws to reverse these prohibi- 
tions have never even gotten out of committees of the General Assembly. 
Similarly, all efforts at allowing the "agency shop" have met with defeat 
in legislative committees, never reaching the floor for debate. Unlike the 
union {h\o)p in which all workers must join the union in a plant under 
contract, and which is barred in North Carolina by its "right to work" 
bill, the agency shop does not demand compulsory membership in the 
union. Those who do not join the union still receive all the benefits of the 
contract — wages, vacations, pension, health plans, grievance protection, 
etc. Still the agency shop is too strong a threat to those who genuflect 
before the totem of "free enterprise." 

North Carolina labor laws are a throwback to the years before 
industrial unionism, a stage not yet reached in this state. Workmen's 
compensation remains elective, not compulsory. Minors 14 and 15 years 
old can work up to a 40-hour week; employers who violate the law can be 
"penalized" with a fine of only 5-50 dollars. The state minimum wage of 
$1.80 per hour in 1975 does not cover establishments with fewer than four 
employees, state and local government employees, employees under 16 or 
over 65 years old, workers in the seafood or fishing industries, domestic 
workers, workers in charitable, religious, educational and non-profit 
organizations, inmates, news vendors, golf caddies, theater doormen, 
part-time employees, and a fistful of other categories. Violators of 
minimum wage laws can be fined 10-50 dollars. 

North Carolina's complete suppression of a labor movement is gener- 
ally explained away by corporate apologists as the result of "human 
relations" programs and of "paternalism." Back in the 1920s, under the 
sponsorship of Western Electric, sociologist Elton Mayo supervised a 
number of studies to develop "human relations" techniques in industrial 
settings. Mayo's results still serve as the basic tenets of corporate 
manipulation of workers' attitudes. 67 Mayo discovered that industrial 
society "is characterized by a social split, growing hostility and hatred 
between various social groups, and an absence of mutual understanding 
between employers and workers." 68 But, denying the Marxist premise of 
class struggle inherent in a class society, Mayo, according to William 
Whyte in his Organization Man, "sees conflict primarily as a breakdown 
in communication. If a man is unhappy or dissatisfied in his work, it is 
not that there is a conflict to be resolved so much as a misunderstanding 
to be cleared up." 69 The industrial map of North Carolina is dotted with 
employers associations, chambers of commerce and industrial de- 
velopers who pride themselves on "human relations" expertise. 

"Paternalism" they like to call it, the "identification" of boss with 

210 



Five 



worker and vice versa. The ruling class goes to the country store to keep 
in touch, chew tobacco, talk to folks. Since the state is made up of small 
isolated towns, provincial to the core, to be a radical or pro-union is to 
face ostracism. The pat on the back, the turkey at Thanksgiving, the local 
gossip, the Boy Scout donation, the current dirty joke — these are the 
weapons which face the challenger to the prevailing system of doing 
things. 

"Human relations" professionals urge the skillfull manipulation of 
"symbolic rewards" to acquire and secure the loyalty of workers. So- 
ciologist Robert Dubin argues that "status pay is the 'cheapest' form of 
payoff for the organization. It involves only some kind of public 
recognition by a member of management of a person's particular mer- 
its." 70 Celebrations in honor of veteran employees, public commenda- 
tions, special badges and bonuses, letters to the workforce from the 
employer at Christmas — all are "symbolic rewards" handed out with a 
wink as a matter of course by North Carolina's paternalistic corpora- 
tions. Companies hand out 5-year pins and 10-year pins for lengthy 
service. After 30 years a worker will receive a $30 watch, a "symbolic 
reward" of a dollar for each year at the loom or the assembly line. 
Paternalism works in just this way: A textile worker making $1.80 an 
hour is weakened by "brown lung" disease, endemic to the industry, but 
continues to work for years because his wife is crippled with arthritis and 
the kids have to eat. He calls himself "middle class" and roots for the 
American Legion baseball team attached to the mill and looks to the day 
his boy can go the local community college to train for a more highly 
skilled job at the mill. By fostering a sense of identification with the 
company, management seeks to render trade unions superfluous: "There 
would be no point in a worker joining a trade union and fighting to 
defend his rights and interests if he were to believe that his employer 
himself was showing 'constant concern' for his welfare." 71 

A host of schemes are devised in this continual corporate campaign. 
Textiles Incorporated of Gastonia held an "energy saving idea" contest, 
and presented a $25 savings bond to the best entry in the plant. The 
American Textile Manufacturers Institute, Inc., with headquarters in 
Charlotte, publishes a monthly Public Relations Pointers newsletter to 
pass on new ideas to the textile barons for developing "employee 
rapport." Cone Mills sponsors a Junior Fishing Club for children of its 
employees. R. J. Reynolds publishes workers' favorite bake recipes in its 
bi-monthly magazine. All the companies welcome "workers' participa- 
tion" in the form of suggestions for plant efficiency, but decision-making 
of course rests firmly in the hands of management. One supporter of 

211 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

"workers' participation" contends that "the self-government of the plant 
community can only be justified if it strengthens management. Its 
functions are not only limited; they are also strictly subordinate." 72 

While encouraging an I-got-plenty-of-nothing-and-nothing-is-plenty- 
for-me philosophy among employees, the textile industry leads all other 
industries in giving to churches, hospitals, and private schools. In 1973, 
about $8 million of donations were given by the textile industry to 
philanthropy, in a more traditional form of paternalism. 73 Such gener- 
osity of course is rewarded by the Internal Revenue Service each April 15. 

Among the favorite objects of corporate charity in North Carolina is 
the church. Liberal donations to the local house of worship has for years 
brought sermons from the pulpit against trade unionism. Several com- 
panies in the western mountain bible belt offer chapel services in the 
plants before work. After the Civil War, says the textile union's Scott 
Hoyman, "The attitude toward industry in every part of North Carolina 
was that the companies were our saviors. In Salisbury, the local minister 
was picked to run the mill." 74 

The historic roots of religion in industry are as long as the history of 
the state itself. The North Carolina "Statute of Oaths" of 1777, stipulat- 
ing that to qualify as a witness at a trial one must believe in divine 
punishment after death, was used to disqualify Communists and other 
non-believers as witnesses during the textile violence in the 1920s and 
1930s. 75 During the Gastonia strike a mob singing "Praise God from 
Whom All Blessings Flow," rushed a boardinghouse where it seized three 
union organizers and took them to an adjoining county where they were 
beaten and abandoned. 76 

Liston Pope in his study, Millhands and Preachers, quotes a mill 
official, "Belonging to a church, and attending it, makes a man a better 
worker. It makes him more complacent — no, that's not the word. It 
makes him more resigned — that's not the word either, but you get the 
general idea." 77 H.L. Mencken used to figure that organized religion 
would always prove more effective than police force in neutralizing 
workers' strikes. "The gospel scheme is far more humane. More, it is far 
cheaper," wrote Mencken, who estimated that to put down a strike of 400 
workers by force might cost $10,000-515,000, whereas a good hell-raising 
revival would cost only $400-$500. 78 

Many workers live in isolated communities in North Carolina and 
belong to primitive pentacostal sects. For some, church services two or 
three times a week are the "only entertainment" available to them. 79 A 
good share of the Duke Endowment goes each year to maintaining the 
rural Methodist Church. Half of North Carolina's half-million Method- 



212 



Five 



ists today live in communities of less than 1,500 persons, and are eligible 
for Duke funds. 80 R.J. Reynolds has a chapel inside its huge Winston- 
Salem plant and maintains a number of preachers on its payroll. The 
tobacco monopoly acknowledges that it has "what we like to call a 
pastor-counselor, who has a personal ministry exactly like a psychiatrist, 
dealing with alcoholism, family problems and the like." 81 Such "pastor- 
counselors" are likened by union organizers to the traditional Christian 
missionaries, teaching colonial subjects to accept their lot on earth in 
return for post-mortem rewards in the sky. 

The aggregate results of a half-century of company chaplains, "pater- 
nalism," and police and vigilante violence on behalf of the ruling class in 
North Carolina are fewer than 160,000 union members or about 6.8 
percent of the state's production workers. Textiles remain the key to 
unionization in this state with one third of the country's textile workers, 
and in which textile workers make up fully half of all manufacturing 
workers. U.S. Senator Jesse Helms may try to resuscitate unrevivably 
exhausted anti-labor cliches ("U nless enough Americans somehow unite, 
I must candidly say . . . that freedom's days are numbered ... I am gravely 
disturbed . . . about the very real possibility of a relative handful of union 
bosses grabbing hold of America's government . . .") 82 but the fact is that 
in his home state unions are without political power of any kind. 

Some labor organizers hold that a "brown lung" movement can build 
the textile union in North Carolina the way the "black lung" movement 
turned around the United Mine Workers in the late 1960s. Brown lung, or 
byssinosis, is caused by inhaling cotton fiber dust, which builds up in the 
lungs to cause difficulty in breathing, uncontrollable coughing and 
gradual destruction of the lungs. Many public health officials rank 
brown lung as the leading occupational health hazard in the state. While 
textile companies argued that there has never been a diagnosed case of 
byssinosis in North Carolina, Dr. James A. Merchant of the state Board 
of Health reported that of three textile plants he studied in 1972, from 6 to 
25 percent of the workers suffered from the disease. 83 

Another study found that brown lung has victimized 12-29 percent of 
all textile workers in the last decade, and up to 41 percent of the workers 
in the dustier areas of the mills. This study, at the same time, suggested 
collusion between the textile companies and the state health inspection 
teams: Seventy-six percent of the hazards found by federal inspectors 
had not been found by the North Carolina inspectors who visited the 
same plants and, further, "Administrators at the highest levels of the 
North Carolina Department of Labor have obstructed proper enforce- 
ment of the state's laws governing cotton-dust exposure." 84 Exact statis- 

213 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

tics on how many cotton mill workers have died from byssinosis are 
unavailable. But none have been compensated. No state or company 
plan exists for reimbursement of medical costs incurred from the disease. 

In England, under pressure from the textile unions there, byssinosis 
has been compensable since the beginning of World War II. In the United 
States, though, textile owners argued that there was no such disease, that 
the workers only had severe bronchitis or asthma or smoker's cough. 
"We are particularly intrigued by the term 'byssinosis,' 1 " editorialized the 
trade magazine, A merica 's Textile Reporter, in 1969, "a thing thought up 
by venal doctors who attended last year's ILO [International Labor 
Organization] meetings in Africa, where inferior races are bound to be 
afflicted by new diseases more superior people defeated years ago." 85 
Exposures by the textile unions and Ralph Nader raised the issue in the 
discussion preceding passage of the 1970 federal Occupational Safety and 
Health Act. 

Tests on Atlanta Federal Penitentiary inmates working in a textile 
plant proved the existence of the disease to the resistant textile owners, 
who now claim to test their employees for byssinosis. Burlington, 
Cannon and Cone mills all work with Duke University Medical Center to 
treat the more obvious victims. But estimates for the number of afflicted 
North Carolina workers run as high as 70,000 and only 38 individuals 
applied for compensation between July 1971 and 1973.* 6 The North 
Carolina Workmen's Compensation Act places on the victim the burden 
of proving one's byssinosis. Most doctors, ignorant of the disease which 
was not recognized until recently, diagnose it as emphysema. But not one 
industry spokesman has yet been heard to suggest that money be spent on 
steaming and washing the cotton before it goes through the carding 
process to keep the air in the mills free of dust particles. And the textile 
union is neither strong enough nor bold enough to mount a campaign to 
compel the industry to eliminate the causes of brown lung. 

U ntil recently the textile union had pursued a strategy of organizing on 
a plant by plant basis, relying in large part on the National Labor 
Relations Board to rule in its favor on unfair labor practice charges. But 
the NLRB, made up of political appointees, is generally used by the 
textile industry to its own advantage. Difficult as it is to get the NLRB to 
call an election on union recognition, it is harder still to win such an 
election, not to mention winning a contract later. If the union collects 
enough workers' signature cards to hold an election, the company in 
question will fire key workers. If the union protests the dismissals to the 
NLRB, the company can usually count on a friendly hearing. When it 
cannot, it will appeal the NLRB ruling through the courts, tying up the 
case for years and destroying the union campaign by attrition. 

214 



Five 

However, in this state where one can be imprisoned for overworking a 
mule but not for overworking a textile worker, a change is on the agenda. 
Its first signs were seen in 1974, with the victorious 12-year campaign to 
unionize the 3,400 workers at the 7 J. P. Stevens mills in Roanoke 
Rapids. None of the Stevens' 46,000 workers in 89 plants have ever been 
covered by a union-negotiated wage agreement. Stevens, second only to 
Burlington as the biggest textile company in the capitalist world, is a 
skilled practitioner of intimidation, blacklisting, paternalism and vio- 
lence against union efforts. Company agents in other plants have been 
charged with illegally wiretapping union organizers. The NLRB has 
ordered Stevens to pay back wages and damages amounting to about 
$1.3 million to 289 workers who had been illegally fired in the course of 
the organizing drive in the past dozen years. 

The town of Roanoke Rapids was founded as a mill village at the turn 
of the century by a former Confederate Army officer, Major Leyburn 
Emry, who served as its first mayor. Emry owned the local power 
company, the mill of course, all the land in the town and the houses on 
that land, and all the forest around the town. He built Roanoke Rapids' 
first streets and first buildings, opened its only saloon and gave the land 
for its first church. Nearly 800 tenant houses were built on Emry's 
property, in which the mill workers lived. Emry later hired Sam Patter- 
son to serve as his foreman and manager. Patterson eventually set up 
another mill as a joint venture with Emry, and as the major reached his 
seniority, Patterson became the town's landlord, merchant, mayor, 
school principal, police chief and political boss and patron. Folks who 
lived in Roanoke Rapids worked in the Emry-Patterson mills, lived in 
the Emry-Patterson houses, shopped at the Emry-Patterson stores, 
bought the Emry-Patterson produce, studied at the Emry-Patterson 
schools. 

Eventually Patterson sold the town to his own lieutenant, Frank 
Williams, who eventually sold the by-then 6 mills to the Simmons 
Mattress Company, which in turn sold the mills to J. P. Stevens in 1956. 
But there remained the continuum of Roanoke Rapids as a company 
town, with all of its oligarchical structure. The parents of today's J. P. 
Stevens millhands worked for Frank Williams, and their parents worked 
for Sam Patterson. 87 

The union victory at Roanoke Rapids has by no means guaranteed a 
contract. Since 1974, the union has been bargaining for the contract to no 
avail, which has prompted the AFL-CIO to support a national boycott of 
Stevens products. (At another textile giant, Deering-Milliken, the union 
is still engaged in more than a 20-year-long legal struggle after winning an 

215 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

election in 1956.) Despite record-breaking profits — for the fiscal half- 
year ending May 1, 1976, net sales were $679.2 million, up 40.5 percent 
from the previous year 88 — Stevens refused to make a single economic 
improvement for its workers. The 33 officers and directors of the 
corporation receive an average of $100,000 each in direct payments from 
the company, plus profits, depending on the amount of stock they own. 
Board chairman James Finley made $462,000 in 1975, president Whitney 
Stevens, $325,000. Pensions for the Stevens chieftans come to as much as 
$75,000 a year. But the millhands face a different fate. Under Stevens* 
"profit-sharing" plan, a worker of 36 years' experience may receive a 
lumpsum of $1,200 and a deadly case of byssinosis upon retirement. For 
the years 1970, 1971 and 1972, not one penny of "profit-sharing" pay- 
ments was given to the workers. 

Clearly Stevens prefers to defy the law rather than enter seriously into 
contract negotiations with the union. The $1.3 million the company has 
paid out in fines for its violations of the law since 1968 is nothing 
compared to the $104 million in government contracts it has received in 
the same years. Daniel Pollitt, who served as counsel for the Special 
House Subcommittee on Labor in Washington, said that Stevens and 
other southern textile companies laughingly refer to back-pay awards as 
the "hunting license" they need to continue their union-busting ac- 
tivities. 89 Thus, Stevens has become the number one labor law violator in 
the United States. As of March 15, 1976, 94 cases of labor law violations 
by Stevens were pending before the National Labor Relations Board. 
The NLRB has found Stevens guilty of flagrant and massive violations 15 
times since 1964. Appeals by Stevens of these NLRB rulings have been 
rejected 8 times by the U.S. Cicruit Court and 3 times by the U.S. 
Supreme Court, which are not known for a pro-labor bias. 

An August 1977 ruling by the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals 
found the company in contempt of court "not once but twice, involving 
over 30 individual violations," which "have been described as massive, 
cynical and flagrantly contemptuous." The court said it would consider a 
proposed fine of $120,000 for any future violation and an additional 
$5,000 fine for each day that a violation continued. 90 Four months later 
an NLRB judge again found that the company failed to bargain in good 
faith in the Roanoke Rapids negotiations. Judge Bernars Ried said that 
Stevens' record "as a whole indicates that it approached these negotia- 
tions with all the tractability and open-mindedness of Sherman at the 
outskirts of Atlanta." 91 

The 1974 vote for the union by the Roanoke Rapids workers brought 
out the power of the company in North Carolina. Banks and finance 

216 



Five 

companies reminded the millhands of their debts. New loans were 
refused until after the election. Stevens foremen, acting as deacons and 
ministers, preached against the unions in the local churches. Even Boyd 
Leedom, NLRB chairman under President Eisenhower, described Ste- 
vens as "so out of tune with a humane civilized approach to industrial 
relations that it should shock even those least sensitive to honor, justice 
and decent treatment." 92 

The fabric of social relations, specifically Black-white relations, in the 
area may be changed as the Stevens dispute is resolved, particularly as 
the 17-year-long effort to organize becomes still more protracted. Ever 
since the 1929 defeat of the NTWU at Gastonia, in part through the use of 
racism to combat the union's principled defense of racial equality, the 
textile unions tried to avoid the racial issue. With the influx of Black 
workers into the industry since the 1960s — due to pressures by the civil 
rights movement, and to the labor shortage as whites moved to more 
skilled jobs in the new industries coming South — textile union organizers 
have had to meet the issue of racism. 

In 1950, Blacks did not comprise more than 10 percent of any textile 
mill's workforce in North Carolina. Black women were totally excluded, 
except occasionally as scrubwomen. No Black occupied jobs in the more 
preferable weaving and spinning departments, let alone white-collar jobs 
or supervisory positions. But by 1968 Black men constituted 15.9 percent 
of North Carolina's textile workforce, Black women, 9.7 percent. Still 
only 66 Blacks occupied white-collar jobs in the entire industry, the 
state's largest. Of these, 3 were managers, 3 were professionals, 7 were 
technicians and 53 were office or clerical workers. 93 In June 1976, J, P. 
Stevens was found guilty of gross discriminatory acts in its Roanoke 
Rapids plants by a federal district court. Among the court's findings were 
the exclusion of Black workers from clerical supervisory and skilled jobs. 
Black male workers with 12th-grade educations made less than white 
males with 3rd-grade educations; Blacks with 10 years' seniority made 
less than whites with two years. 94 At its plants in Roanoke Rapids during 
the union election campaign, the company posted on its walls pictures of 
huge Black men crouching over frail white women, and passed out 
photos of white murder victims in San Francisco's so-called Zebra terror 
campaign. 95 

State AFL-CIO president Wilbur Hobby, who personally interceded 
in the Stevens organizing drive, says that "whites leave the textile 
industry because the pay is so low and they can get more in the new 
industries coming here." This helps the unions because "Black people are 
more prone to organization, they're not so fooled by the myths of 

217 



Nothing Could Be Finer 

individualism/" But there is a problem because "when a union moves in, 
and calls a first meeting, mainly Black workers show up, and then the 
company goes to the white workers and says, 'You all don't want to join a 
union dominated by them."' 96 The Stevens campaign proved successful, 
because the organizing committee was made up of Black and white 
workers, operating on the basis of equality. At first whites stayed away 
from union meetings, victimized by a company campaign showing that 
the union supported school desegregation. The union's Scott Hoyman 
says that young whites as well as Blacks now "feel no obligation to the 
company. The companies race-bait and tell the whites that they will be 
run by Black union bosses, while at the same time the company is 
beginning to upgrade some Blacks to foreman. With the entrance of new 
industries — rubber, paper, etc. — the textile companies feel the pressure 
for more wages, benefits and rights. If a tire company pays $1.50 an hour 
more than a mill, the textile company will be pressured by whites as well 
as Blacks." 97 

The class interests of white workers mitigate in favor of unity with 
Black workers when they are clearly seen. Thus the civil rights and Black 
liberation movements serve white workers as well. The corporations, by 
their nature undemocratic institutions with all decisions made by a few 
owners, are restricted in their total control by any extension of demo- 
cratic rights, including those that take place outside the plant gate. The 
companies understand this sometimes better than the unions. Thus the 
corporations, and the state apparatus under their control, have moved to 
neutralize and eliminate any suggestion of a civil rights movement as a 
threat to their economic dictatorship. 



218 



Afterword 



In a Christmas season statement in late 1973, the North Carolina 
Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, 
under the chairmanship of Rev. W. W. Finlator, said in customary 
understatement: 

At the very time when the federal government is meeting with reversal after 
reversal in its efforts, across the nation, to harass student protesters and war 
resisters, and is frustrated by juries that refuse to convict on what seems to 
them trumped up charges, here in North Carolina our courts are meting out 
harsh penalties and giving unconscionably long sentences to political acti- 
vists. While prosecution has failed elsewhere to gain verdicts of guilty, the 
success of North Carolina prosecutors in jailing socially engaged leaders has 
been both remarkable and alarming. 

It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that the administration of criminal 
justice in North Carolina could become politicized in its pursuit to ferret out, 
suppress and punish political belief and action. Brilliant, sensitive and 
talented young men such as Ben Chavis, an ordained minister and pastor from 
a home of culture and leadership, James Grant, a Ph.D. in chemistry who has 
been offered a faculty position in a state university, and T. J. Reddy, a poet 
and painter whose works are soon to be published by Random House, have 
been arrested, tried, convicted and given long jail sentences under circum- 
stances that tend to revive the spectre of what was once called "southern 
justice." The harsh and seemingly punitive sentences, the excessive bail, the 
selection of juries, and, most shocking of all, the use by the State of discredited 
witnesses who have themselves been charged and convicted of heinous crimes 
and have then been given immunity and protection by the State, have the 
cumulative effect of convincing many people that a pattern and trend of legal 
repression may exist in North Carolina. 

That same "cumulative effect" was evident on July 4, 1974, when the 
National Alliance brought nearly 10,000 people to Raleigh to protest 
against that "laboratory of racism and repression" in North Carolina. 



Afterword 

More than half the protestors in the demonstration, the largest the South 
had ever seen since the murder of Dr. King, came from North Carolina — 
from the cities, the small towns, the countryside, from Charlotte and 
Wilmington and Tarboro and Oxford and Fayetteville. The Rev. Ralph 
David Abernathy, Dr. King's successor as president of the Southern 
Christian Leadership Conference, told the marchers: "I've come to 
march because the same foot of iron that seeks to keep me down as a 
Black man is seeking to keep us all down, whether we be Christians or 
Communists. And they want to divide us and they want to tell us 
something is wrong with some people because they are Communists. 
Well, I want to tell you right now that it's a pride and it's an honor for me 
to march with Angela Davis." 

Speaking to the crowd, Angela Davis agreed with Rev. Abernathy: 
"They said people would not take to the streets any more, to raise their 
voices against racism and repression. Sisters and Brothers, how wrong 
they were! Look around you, and who do you see? You see Black people 
by the thousands; you see Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, Indians, Asians, 
white people. You see workers and students, marching together. You see 
ministers and Communists, nationalists and church people. We've learn- 
ed some very important lessons from our history. We've learned that if 
we want to be strong, we have to use the only weapon which the people 
who are politically powerless, and economically powerless, hold in their 
hand. Our weapon is unity; our battle is to organize." 

Under pressure from many quarters, Governor James Holshouser 
announced right after the July 4 march that he could not consider 
executive clemency for the Charlotte Three until the defendants had 
exhausted all legal avenues of redress. The governor urged the defense to 
appeal through the state courts. Immediately an appeal was filed and 
arguments heard by Superior Court Judge Sam Ervin III. For nine 
months Judge Ervin held onto the case before ruling, in December 1975, 
that the secret federal payoffs to the informers Hood and Washington, 
one of the key questions in the appeal, were merely "harmless error." 
Immediately the defense filed a writ of habeas corpus in federal district 
court of appeals, and the appeals process dragged on. By now Jim Grant 
had been paroled by the federal authorities, after serving two and a half 
years at Atlanta Federal Penitentiary on the charge of aiding fugitives, 
and turned over to the state of North Carolina, where he was assigned 
first to the Avery County prison unit, then to Stanly County to serve his 
sentence in the Lazy B case. Finally in June 1976, after four years 
imprisonment, Jim Grant and T. J. Reddy were released on $50,000 and 
$10,000 appeal bond. Charles Parker was by now already on parole. 

220 



Afterword 

In December 1974, the state Court of Appeals turned down the appeal 
of the Wilmington 10. In the appeal, the defense listed 2,635 exceptions to 
Judge Martin's "admitting into evidence . . . testimony . . . which was 
irrelevant, immaterial, incompetent, remote, prejudicial and inflamma- 
tory." In rejecting the appeal, the appellate court was obliged to state 
that, "In our opinion some of the rulings constituted error," but nev- 
ertheless, "In our opinion the errors in the admission of State's evidence 
were non-prejudicial beyond a reasonable doubt." The court concluded 
its decision denying the appeal with these words, "In our view defendants 
had a fair trial before an impartial, patient and courteous judge and by a 
competent, unbiased jury. They have been accorded every reasonable 
request. The State's evidence was clear, and overwhelmingly tended to 
show the guilt of each defendant of the offenses with which he was 
charged. In the trial we find no prejudicial error. No error." What the 
court failed to note in its opinion was that the "impartial, patient and 
courteous" trial judge, Robert Martin, had been appointed to and was 
now sitting as a member of the Court of Appeals. 

Six months later the North Carolina Supreme Court refused to even 
review the case. Among those sitting on that court were I. Beverly Lake, 
Dan K. Moore, and Joseph Branch, for years political cronies of Judge 
Robert Martin and Attorney General Robert Morgan, who had pros- 
ecuted the Wilmington 10. This left the U.S. Supreme Court as the last 
resort. In October 1975 the Wilmington 10 petitioned the highest court in 
the land. At a press conference called by the Commission for Racial 
Justice to announce the petition, National Alliance executive secretary 
Charlene Mitchell argued, "In fact the case of the Wilmington 10 should 
not have reached the U.S. Supreme Court at all. It should never have 
even been brought to trial. The wrong people, the victims rather than the 
perpetrators, were brought to trial. Just as they were wrongly tried, they 
were wrongly convicted; their appeal to the state appellate court was 
wrongly denied, and the state supreme court wrongly refused to even 
hear the case." 

Then in January 1976 the U.S. Supreme Court "wrongly refused" to 
hear the case as well. Nixon appointee and Barry Goldwater confidant 
Judge William Rehnquist read the case for the high court and recom- 
mended rejection of the case without comment. The National Con- 
ference of Black Churchmen, under the presidency of Dr. Charles Cobb, 
stated the outrage felt by the legions of Wilmington 10 supporters. "It is 
hard to perceive," said the Conference, "of a greater inhumanity than this 
denial of the writ of certiorari imposes; it is hard to perceive of a greater 
abrogation of moral and judicial responsibility." 

221 



Afterword 

The Wilmington 10 now had to prepare to return to prison. During 
their period of liberty, they had remained active members of their 
communities. Rev. Chavis continued as director for the Washington, 
D.C., office of the Commission for Racial Justice and was a candidate 
for a master's degree in divinity at the Howard University School of 
Religion. Reginald Epps and Wayne Moore were now juniors at Shaw 
University in Raleigh, majoring in business administration and political 
science, respectively. Joe Wright was a political science student at 
Talladega College in Alabama. Jerry Jacobs married a school teacher 
and was a city employee in Wilmington. Ann Sheppard had remarried 
and was now working in Raleigh. James McCoy was an electronics 
majorat Cape Fear Technical Institute in Wilmington. Marvin Patrick 
was now working in Oxford, Willie Earl Vereen in San Francisco, and 
Connie Tindall in Wilmington. 

Washington Post columnist Coleman McCarthy asked, "What pur- 
pose is served by locking away the nine young men and one woman for a 
combined span of 282 years?" and answered himself: "A spirit of vicious 
retribution appears to be at work. None of the Wilmington 10 had a 
record of crime before his arrest, and none has had serious involvement 
with the law after. None jumped bail. Nothing in their behavior since 
their arrests in 1972 suggests that these are social menaces needing to be 
incarcerated to protect the community." At an 11th hour bond hearing 
before Magistrate Logan D. Howell, 236 affidavits were filed making 
that same point. The affidavits testifying to the good character and 
responsibility of the Wilmington 10 and asking for bond to be set while 
the federal appeals process continued, came from professors, attorneys, 
trade union leaders, clergy, city council members, mayors, judges and 
members of Congress. Support for the Wilmington 10 had come already 
from the Washington, D.C., City Council which had proclaimed a 
"Wilmington 10 Day" on May 31, 1975, from the Congressional Black 
Caucus and from the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, from the 
Baltimore Central Labor Council and the World Peace Council based in 
Helsinki, Finland. Among the scores of prominent community leaders 
who appeared in person to offer character testimony at the bond hearing 
were the Rev. William Oliver, chairman of the Commission for Racial 
Justice; the Rev. Ernest Gibson, executive director of the Council of 
Churches of Greater Washington; Dr. Lawrence Jones, dean of Howard 
University's School of Religion; and the Rev. A. Knighton Stanley, 
director of Bicentennial programs for the Mayor of Washington, D.C. 

Magistrate Howell, however, refused to hear the testimony or read the 
affidavits. Receiving a fair hearing from the arcane judicial system of 

222 



Afterword 

North Carolina where justice for Ben Chavis and the Wilmington 10 are 
concerned, was as easily accomplished as freezing smoke rings. Appeal 
bond was denied and the ten young defendants were sent to prison for 
most of the remaining years of their lives. 



Ihirteen months after the Wilmington 10 were again placed behind 
prison walls and barbed wire, the newly inaugurated President Jimmy 
Carter wrote to Andrei D. Sakharov in Moscow, "You may rest assured 
that the American people and our government will continue our firm 
commitment to promote respect for human rights. We shall use our good 
offices to seek the release of prisoners of conscience." The White House, 
the new president was saying to the world, would no longer be burdened 
by the corruption of Watergate and the barbarism of Vietnam. Human 
rights were to be the hallmark of this administration. 

Two weeks after the Carter letter to Sakharov, another letter on the 
subject of human rights was written, this time to President Carter from 
the Rev. Chavis. Sent from his prison cell in McCain, North Carolina, 
Ben wrote, "As only one of the many American citizens who has been 
unjustly imprisoned not because of criminal conduct but as a direct result 
of participation in the human and civil rights movement in the United 
States, I appeal to you. . . to first set a national priority of freeing all U.S. 
political prisoners. . . . We are 10 victims of a racist and political 
prosecution. . . In fact, we are equally as well 'prisoners of conscience.*' I 
pray that you will with speed respond positively to my request." The 
young minister's prayers and his letter went unanswered by a White 
House whose public relations credo holds that image, not substance, is 
the stuff of which presidents are made. 

Spoken in tones as soft as the slyest innuendo, President Carter's 
human-rights sermons were meant to give the impression that his 
government had cleansed its hands of the blood of foreign aggression and 
the grime of corruption in high places. His Attorney General, Griffin B. 
Bell, who had 20 years earlier been the architect of Georgia's "massive 
resistance" to court-ordered school desegregation, was not prepared to 
be quite so firm with high government officials caught in criminal acts. 
Early on in the young administration, Bell accepted the recommendation 
of his department's office for professional responsibility to drop consid- 
eration of prosecuting FBI agents on criminal charges. 

Nor was the FBI unique in exemption from "professional respon- 
sibility." Take, for example, Richard Helms, please. As Director of 




223 



Afterword 

Central Intelligence, Helms' career included, among other highlights, his 
personal involvement in assassination attempts against Fidel Castro; 
drug-testing and mind-control programs and ordering the files of these 
programs destroyed; tens of thousands of illegal mail openings; Opera- 
tion CHAOS to disrupt democratic movements in the United States in 
violation of the CIA charter; withholding information on the Watergate 
coverup from the FBI and destroying evidence in the Watergate case; 
subverting and eventually overthrowing the democratically elected gov- 
ernment of Salvador Allende in Chile. After establishing a record of lying 
under oath to congressional committees regarding the latter three crimes, 
Helms was charged with perjury. 

Enter Messrs. Carter's and Bell's Justice Department, to seemingly act 
more as defense counsel than prosecutor. After months of negotiations, 
felony charges of perjury against Helms were reduced to the misde- 
meanor of refusing to testify fully and accurately. Even the misdemeanor 
charged carried a possible two-year sentence and $2,000 fine, however, so 
Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti urged upon the judge in 
the case, "with all the strength and conviction which 1 can muster on 
behalf of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice," that 
there be no jail sentence. Helms, entering his nolo contendre plea, stated 
his understanding that, "There is to be no sentence and I will be able to 
continue to get my pension from the U.S. government." Let off with a 
one-year suspended sentence and $2,000 fine, his attorney told the press, 
"He's going to wear this conviction like a badge of honor." Said Helms, 
"I don't feel disgraced at all." From the courtroom he went to a luncheon 
in his honor by former colleagues at the CIA, who gave him a standing 
ovation and passed around a wastebasket to collect the $2,000 he had 
been fined. So much for the deterrent effect of the plea bargain. Attorney 
General Bell, defending the arrangement a few days later, said that when 
his department urged that Helms not be sent to prison he had received no 
special consideration. "You can rob a bank and get probated," he said, 
adding that it was common for "first offenders" not to go to jail. 1 

This was hardly a persuasive argument to supporters of the 
Wilmington 10 who were apparently exempt from the Bell pronounce- 
ment. The young defendants, scattered throughout the Raleigh Archi- 
pelago, some to prisons hundreds of miles from their families, fought for 
their innocence and their freedom behind the walls while their families 
and supporters took to the streets outside. Several of the Wilmington 10 
became active in the North Carolina Prisoners' Union, exposing abuses 
of inmates' rights by the authorities. For their efforts, they were placed in 
isolation or moved back and forth from this prison to that, like so many 

224 



Afterword 

leaves in a wind. After a brief spell at Central Prison again, Rev. Chavis 
was moved to Caledonia prison farm in the rural east. Then after a few 
weeks and as punishment for reading the Bible to fellow prisoners and 
explaining their legal rights, he was put in leg irons and chains, placed on 
the back of a prison truck and transferred 200 miles to the McCain prison 
unit. 

For "security" reasons, Ben was confined to a hospital section for 
prisoners with tuberculosis and mental disorders. At McCain as at 
Caledonia, he was allowed only to wear the gray "gun" uniform, 
signifying that were he to attempt to escape, he would be shot to death by 
prison marksmen using double barrel 12-gauge shotguns with number 4 
buckshot. When various appeals and grievance hearings brought no 
relief, Ben embarked on a "spiritual fast and political hunger strike" 
which lasted 131 days. 

Meantime the National Alliance was distributing a half million pieces 
of literature, mobilizing several thousand telegrams and letters to the 
governor, organizing delegations to the attorney general, soliciting 
articles in national magazines and arranging network television docu- 
mentaries. In preparation for its National March for Human Rights and 
Labor Rights in Raleigh on Labor Day 1976, more than 100,000 suppor- 
ters attended Alliance rallies across the country, while personal ap- 
pearances on radio and television by Alliance leaders reached many 
millions more. As the demonstrators paraded in the streets of Raleigh 
that day, support actions were held in Jamaica, the USSR, Iraq, Greece, 
Denmark and the German Democratic Republic, the result of a call for 
an International Day of Solidarity with the Wilmington 10 and Charlotte 
Three by the World Peace Council based in Helsinki, the International 
Association of Democratic Lawyers in Brussels and the Womens Inter- 
national Democratic Federation in Berlin. In the next year and a half, the 
White House in Washington and the statehouse in Raleigh would receive 
over 500,000 signatures from its citizens demanding freedom for the 
Wilmington 10. 

By the time Mr. Carter gave his inaugural address, he had already 
received an "Open Letter" from James Baldwin, printed first in The New 
York Times and then carried in newspapers from Rome to Raleigh: 

I have a thing to tell you, but with a heavy heart, for it is not a new thing. . . 
If I know, you must certainly know of the silent pact made between the North 
and the South after Reconstruction, the purpose of which was — and is — to 
keep the n[ ]r in his place. 

If I know, then you must certainly know, that keeping the n[ ]r in his 

place was the most extraordinarily effective way of keeping the poor white in 
his place, and also of keeping him poor. 



225 



Afterword 

The situation of the Wilmington 10 and the Charlotte 3 is a matter of 
Federal collusion, and would not be possible without that collusion. 

When those Black children and white children and Black men and white 
men and Black women and white women were marching behind Martin, up 
and down those dusty roads, trespassing, trespassing wherever they were, in 
the wrong waiting room, at the wrong coffee counter, in the wrong depart- 
ment store, in the wrong toilet, and were carried off to jail, they found 
themselves before federally appointed judges, who gave them the maximum 
sentence. 

Some people died beneath that sentence, some went mad, some girls will 
never become pregnant again. . . . 

Too many of us are in jail, my friend, too many of us can find no door open. 
And I was in Charlotte 20 years ago, three years after the Supreme Court 
made segregation in education illegal, when it was decided that separate could 
not, by definition be equal. Charlotte then begged for time, and time, indeed, 
has passed. . . . 

I dared to write you this letter out of the concrete necessity of bringing to 
your attention the situations of the Wilmington 10 and the Charlotte 3 . . . 
Their situation is but a very small indication of the situation of the wretched in 
the country: the nonwhite, the Indian, the Puerto Rican, the Mexican, the 
Oriental. Consider that we may all have learned, by now, all that we can learn 
from you and may not want to become like you. At this hour of the world's 
history it may be that you, now, have something to learn from us. 

The Baldwin letter was followed by a "60 Minutes" CBS-TV documen- 
tary on the case, a letter to Attorney General Bell from sixty members of 
Congress, support declarations from the N AACP, Congressional Black 
Caucus, National Urban League, National Council of Churches, Am- 
nesty International, the International Federation of Human Rights, the 
World Council of Churches, resolutions by the city councils of Los 
Angeles, Denver, Honolulu, Milwaukee, Detroit, Hartford and Madi- 
son, editorials in a dozen of the biggest newspapers in the country, and 
demonstrations in front of federal buildings and Democratic Party 
headquarters and at U.S. embassies abroad. It was becoming difficult to 
take at face value the president's refusal to act on the basis of not 
knowing "all the facts" in the case. Before his first year in office would 
end, he would be told by Rep. Parren Mitchell, chairman of the 
Congressional Black Caucus, from the dais of the Fourth National 
Alliance Conference: "The injustice of the Wilmington 10 can no longer 
be tolerated by a nation that prattles about human rights . . . You 
hypocrite, you. You talk about human rights in the Union of Soviet 
Socialist Republics. Why don't you start with the human rights of the 
Wilmington 10. 1 don't fool myself. I, Parren Mitchell, could be in prison. 

226 



Afterword 

No one who's Black, Brown or poor is safe. No one who speaks out 
against the Neutron Bomb is safe. It is not just brother Ben Chavis, it is 
us, it is us." 



It is an axiom in defense work that the earlier one enters a case, the 
better the chances for victory. Best of all is to prevent arrests, but if 
arrests have already occurred the movement can work to block indict- 
ments. Next best is to get the charges dropped and avoid a trial, and after 
that, to win at the trial level. If a trial results in conviction, the best the 
defense can hope for at that stage is reduced or suspended sentences. But 
it is generally conceded that once tried, convicted, sentenced (especially 
to long terms), and serving time, a defendant's prospects are slim at best. 
Especially is this so if your name is Ben Chavis (or Ann Sheppard or 
Willie Earl Vereen or Jerry Jacobs or Reginald Epps or Connie Tindall 
or Marvin Patrick or Joe Wright or Wayne Moore or James McKoy) 
and the entire police and criminal justice apparatus of the federal and 
state governments is aligned against you, and your case is unknown 
outside of your home town, and the general assumption of those who 
know of the case (including some who are supposed to be your friends) is 
that you may well be guilty and the best you can hope for is mercy from 
some future governor or court some years down the road. 

Such was the situation when the National Alliance was founded and 
first began to mount a movement. Now four years later, this case of poor, 
young, unknown civil rights workers, already convicted, imprisoned and 
given up as lost in the most repressive state in the country, had broken 
wide open. Massive pressure from throughout North Carolina and the 
U nited States and around the world had created a new atmosphere where 
false witnesses, once intimidated, now felt confident enough to recant; 
and true witnesses, once too frightened to testify, now came forward with 
the truth; where those who in earlier times opposed or averted the 
campaign now initiated actions of their own. 

The first big break came while the Alliance was mounting the Labor 
Day march in 1976, when Allen Hall, the chief prosecution witness, in a 
sworn affidavit, recanted his trial testimony. Hall now said that he had 
himself set the fire at Mike's Grocery in 1971. Facing a forty-year 
sentence, Hall had agreed to prosecutor Jay Stroud's terms to falsely 
implicate Ben Chavis and the other defendants in exchange for a reduced 
sentence. He had been coached in his testimony by Stroud, U.S. Treasury 
agent William Walden, and District Attorney Allen W. Cobb. The flavor 
of the case can be tasted by selections from Hall's recantation; 



227 



Afterword 

hall: And so then like they told me what to say in Court because I had 
gotten mad and I had said that for them to just give me a gun, that 1 would kill 
Chavis, you know. And so Stroud said, no, uh, you couldn't kill him because if 
you kill him they would investigate because he is in a civil rights movement 
and so then they said that the best way to get him is through by law. He said, 
because law has so many quirks and turns in it and so like, I went along with 
that. So like, then after they had told me how to make Molotov cocktails and 
they had showed me what dynamite was, you know, and blasting caps. 

attorney james Ferguson: Did you know anything about Molotov 
cocktails and dynamite before they told you about them? 

hall: No, because 1 had never been involved in nothing like that before. 

Ferguson: You hadn't seen Chavis or any of the other people who were on 
trial making any Molotov cocktails or bring dynamite into the church or 
anything like that? 

hall: No. 

Ferguson: O.k., go ahead and tell us what else happened. 

hall: And, ah, then, like ah, Mr. Walden, Bill Walden, he said that here 
goes some dynamite and some blasting caps and he said it was electro- 
dynamite. He said that he had found this in the basement of the church. And 
ah, he asked me had I seen it and I said, no I hadn't seen no dynamite in the 
basement of no church. And so, like, he said, no, you don't say that there 
because you lookin at the dynamite now, right. I said, yeah. He said, well then, 
that's the dynamite that came out from under the church. You supposed to say 
that you saw the dynamite in the basement of the church. And so, 1 said, well 
o.k. then. . . . 

Ferguson: Where was Ben when Mike's Grocery was burned? 

hall: In Reverend Templeton's house because, like ah, to the best of my 
knowledge, Ben didn't know nothing about it because half of the time, like ah, 
whenever the gas was there, half of the time, you know, Ben didn't even know 
it because they kept it hid. 

Ferguson: O.k. So are you saying then that Ben didn't tell anybody to burn 
down Mike's Grocery Store? 

hall: No. 

Ferguson: And he wasn't out there when Mike's Grocery was being 
burned? 

hall: No, he wasn't out there when it was being burned. . . . 

Ferguson: Were you promised anything by any of the officers such as the 
Solicitor or police officers for testifying against the defendants at the trial? 

hall: 1 was promised by all of them that I wouldn't get much time, and that 
I would be out in six months if 1 didn't get into anything. 

A court hearing some months later revealed that during the trial Hall 
was housed at a beach resort with his girlfriend, whom Solicitor Stroud 
had brought from Asheville, 300 miles away. 



228 



Afterword 

Also housed with Hall was Jerome Mitchell, the second main witness 
against the Wilmington 10. As far back as June 10, 1974, while the case 
was still on appeal in the state courts, Mitchell had written the parole 
board: . . Back in September 1972, 1 testified for the state in the Chavis 
case. Which I can no longer go on with myself about. Because of the fact 

that I committed perjure [sic] against every person in that case I don't 

care what anyone else do. But I feel I was wrong. 1 want to do all 1 can to 

get this right. I am praying they can be free or get a new trial Please as 

soon as possible let me hear from you. I have done wrong enough. Please 
let me have my chance to help free those I lied on. Thank you." For three 
years, Mitchell's letter was suppressed by the state. Then in March 1977, 
after Hall's recantation was made public, Mitchell also made a public 
statement. Facing unrelated first-degree murder charges and a possible 
death sentence at the time of the Wilmington 10 trial, Mitchell had agreed 
to offer false testimony against the defendants in exchange for a promise 
of a six-month sentence. (Mitchell was eventually convicted of second- 
degree murder but served less than four years of his 30-year sentence 
before being paroled to a $3-an-hour laborer's job. After his recantation, 
he was arrested again, charged with trying to pass off a $10 bill as a $100 
bill.) Like Hall, he would be coached in his testimony by Solicitor 
Stroud, Treasury agent Walden, and Wilmington police officers: 

After staying at Wrightsville Beach for approximately a week or two, Allen 
and I were moved to a beach house on Carolina Beach. 1 believe it was an 
eight-room house. A man named "Tex" came one night and talked to us for a 
long time. He said he was in the Ku Klux Klan and he knew a lot of people and 
if we needed protection or financial aid he would assist. Most of this had 
already been brought out by Stroud. We stayed at the cottage until the trial 
was over. [Tex Gross, Grand Cyclops of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 
eastern North Carolina, owned the beach cottage in which the prosecution 
housed Mitchell and Hall. Author.] 

After 1 testified Stroud said I did a good job and if he got a conviction he 
was going to throw a party. After the trial we had a party at the cottage. We 
grilled steaks and drank whisky. . . . 

To learn the testimony I studied the material Jay Stroud give me daily for 
approximately a month. That's all we had to do during the week. As time went 
on 1 kept reminding Stroud about his promise and he kept assuring me he 
would have me out in six or seven months if 1 testified. . . . 

During the trial of the Wilmington Ten almost all my testimony was false. I 
told the truth about my name and some of my past, but all the details 1 gave 
about Chavis and the other defendants was false. I was not there at the church 
those nights and I did not participate in the burning of Mike's Grocery nor do 
I personally know who did. I testified to these matters only because Jay 



229 



Afterword 

Stroud promised me that I would get out of prison in six or seven months if I 
did. Jay Stroud prepared the statements for me because I didn't know 
anything about the burning of Mike's Grocery. That was the only way 1 could 
learn the details. That is, I had to study what was given to me because I didn't 
know anything about it. I never saw any fire-bombs or anyone making them 
nor did 1 ever see any of the Wilmington Ten with guns. 

I am giving this statement to be of all truths to the best of my knowledge 
and beliefs, it is the truth so help me God. 

Hall's and Mitchell's recantations brought forth yet another from Eric 
Junious, the third and lone remaining state's witness against the 
Wilmington 10. At the time of trial, Junious was a thirteen-year-old 
juvenile who was confined to a training school for having committed 
armed robbery at the age of eleven. In a sworn, notarized statement in 
January 1977, Junious said that he too was coached by Stroud, given a set 
of photographs of the Wilmington 10 and a list of their names, and 
trained to match up the two. In exchange for his testimony, the youth was 
promised and given a minibike and a job in a gas station owned by 
Stroud's cousin. 

By now Robert Morgan, who as attorney general had overseen the 
prosecution, had replaced Sam Ervin in the United States Senate, where 
he joined the Intelligence Oversight Committee, a move not calculated to 
make human-rights advocates feel too comfy when the doorbell rings. If 
politics makes strange bedfellows, think of the possibilities of swapping: 
replacing Morgan as attorney general was Rufus Edmisten, Ervin's chief 
aide during the Watergate hearings. Apparently the buck stopped there, 
on the Potomac, for Edmisten, who now became chief defender of the 
Wilmington 10 prosecution and conviction, even after the recantations. 

Nor were the recantations all the authorities had to squirm about. Now 
it was revealed that North Carolina's Good Neighbor Council, which had 
been responsible for inviting Ben to Wilmington and worked hand in 
glove with him there, had acted in collusion with the prosecution during 
the trial. In late 1976 Good Neighbor Council members and staff revealed 
that the council had resisted efforts by the defense, including subpoenas, 
to produce at the trial documents and records that indicated the inno- 
cence of Ben and his co-defendants. One council field worker said: "We 
were concerned about maintaining a low profile. We were very aware 
that our appropriations came from the General Assembly." So they 
dodged the subpoenas, pretty much sealing the fate of the Wilmington 10. 
The Rev. Aaron Johnson, a council member, now told the press in 
November 1976 that those records, so "highly favorable" to the defen- 
dants, had been stolen from the council office in Raleigh. 

230 



Afterword 

By 1977 Rev. Eugene Templeton and his wife, Donna, who had fled the 
Gregory Congregational Church and North Carolina in fear for their 
lives, felt strong enough to return to North Carolina to give the testimony 
they were afraid to give at the trial five years earlier. Now they told a 
Superior Court hearing that Ben, Marvin Patrick, Connie Tindall and 
James McKoy were with them inside their home in Wilmington at the 
time of the fire at Mike's Grocery. Others came forward to say that 
Wayne Moore was babysitting at the time of the fire, that Joe Wright was 
visiting relatives. 

Moreover Reverend Templeton would now defend Ben's presence and 
activities in Wilmington to the press. Ben united the community, parents 
and students, said Rev. Templeton. "Chavis was a catalyst. It was the 
first time I saw that kind of interest on the part of the Black parents. He 
was able to generate genuine interest, genuine concern in their situation 
within the Wilmington community. For the very first time I saw enthusi- 
asm and hope in those people. They believed they could really get things 
improved. I thought this was a very positive thing, and I told the deacons 
that. Never did I hear any talk of violence from Ben Chavis or anyone 
else." 

With the only three witnesses against the Wilmingtoin 10 recanting, 
and defense witnesses coming forward to say that the defendants were in 
their homes at the time of the alleged crime, even one of the original 
jurors of the 1972 trial, Gretchen Simmons, could tell the press in 1977, 
"It's obvious, isn't it, that the case is completely blown." Still the state 
was unrelenting. At a post-conviction hearing in May 1977, forced upon 
the authorities by a determined outcry of public opinion, Superior Court 
Judge George Fountain listened to two weeks of testimony, including the 
recantations of Hall, Mitchell and Junious, and then took all of five 
minutes to rule against a new trial in a decision The New York Times 
called "breath-taking." Subsequent evidence showed that Judge Foun- 
tain's later 37-page written opinion was actually produced word for word 
by the state attorney general's office in violation of federal statutes. 

That violation, together with the recantations and other new evidence 
produced since the 1972 conviction, plus the original defense papers 
alleging more than 2,500 trial errors, formed the basis of several appeals 
which sat in Federal District Court for more than two years while the 
Wilmington 10 sat in some of the worst prisons in the country. As the 
courts, acting in tandem with the executive offices in Raleigh and 
Washington refused to budge, the defense's best guess was that they were 
fearful to acknowledge that there had been a frame-up, and later a cover- 
up, in which some of the most trusted and highly placed state and federal 

231 



Afterword 

officials participated. Careers were on the line for these conspirators 

from on high. 

The stubbornness of the North Carolina authorities in refusing to 
confess error and wrongdoing again became apparent in January 1978 
after the state appellate court refused to reverse Judge Fountain's 
decision in the post-conviction hearing. Governor James B. Hunt, under 
tremendous pressure as a result of the recantations and the mobilization 
of public opinion, had refused to deal with defense appeals for pardons of 
innocence for the defendants while the case was still in state court. Now 
with the appellate court decision, the legal appeals were entirely in the 
hands of the Federal District Court. Governor Hunt announced that he 
would make a statewide television address to announce his decision on 
the question of pardons, a decision which "would end this matter for all 
time" and "put this case behind us." Skeptics believed that he would not 
grant pardons— pressures from the Right and from powerful forces like 
Senator Robert Morgan would not allow that — but that he would 
commute the sentences to "time served," thereby releasing the defendants 
from prison and defusing the mass movement. Instead, using harsh 
prosecutorial language, Hunt told the state and the country that he 
believed the defendants were guilty and the prosecutors and the courts 
were honorable; that the sentences on one count were not consistent with 
his concept of the law, so he would reduce the sentences of the 
Wilmington 10 from a maximum of 282 years to 221 years. Predictably, 
what had been a storm of protest before Hunt spoke became a monsoon. 
Nearly three dozen daily newspapers complained in bitter editorials 
about the governor's "Monday Night Massacre." Most, like the Kansas 
City Star and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, were heard from for the first 
time. With North Carolina's abdication, all pressure now would be on 
the White House. 

While President Carter offered his State of the Union Address in 
January 1978, the Wilmington 10 remained in prison. Jim Grant, T.J. 
Reddy and Charles Parker— the Charlotte Three— had just lost their 
appeal to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Al Hood and David 
Washington, whose testimony sent Jim and the Three to prison, re- 
mained on the streets to pursue their lives of crimes. Allen Hall, Jerome 
Mitchell and Eric Junious were back in prison, charged with various 
offenses. Treasury agents Stanley Noel and William Walden continued 
to work their wares in North Carolina. Their former boss, John Con- 
nolly, had been acquitted on corruption charges a couple years earlier. 
Richard Nixon, under whom the prosecution of the defendants began, 
had been pardoned of all his crimes. John Mitchell was free on a medical 

232 



Afterword 

furlough from a sentence of 3-8 years for his Watergate crimes. His 
assistant, Robert Mardian, had his conviction reversed in the same 
Watergate conspiracy. Solicitor Jay Stroud, prosecutor of the 
Wilmington 10 and Wilmington Three, was named U.S. attorney for 
eastern North Carolina, in one of Richard Nixon's final acts in office, 
and later became prosecutor in Gastonia. Robert Martin, the trial judge, 
now sits on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Robert Morgan 
remains a U.S. senator. 

"Meanwhile," said Congressman Ronald V. Dellums in a speech to the 
House of Representatives while the U.S. Supreme Court was still 
considering the petition of the Wilmington 10, "the Reverend Chavis is a 
courageous man, as he has shown through scores of arrests and attempts 
on his life . . . The authorities will try to break him and he will not break. 
The consequences of prison resistance are well known to anyone with 

eyes to read the daily newspapers I think it is important for Congress 

and for the people of our country to understand that, in these days of 
investigation into the misdeeds of the intelligence community, real lives 
are at stake. The provocations against and persecution of the Reverend 
Benjamin Chavis and the Wilmington 10 by federal and local agencies 
were not 'simulated' attacks; they were not assassination plots that went 
awry or were called off at the last minute. Rather, they were calculated 
attempts against the civil rights movement of North Carolina, with 
consequences for the whole United States. To our shame they were 
attempts that have so far succeeded. They can only be blunted by an alert 
bar of public opinion and a Supreme Court intent on upholding justice in 
our land." 

The struggle continues. 



233 



I 



Notes 



Introduction 

1. Barbara Howar. Laughing All the Way, Fawcett World, Greenwich, Conn., 1974, p. 
29. 

2. See Joy Lamm, "So You Want a Land Use Bill?"; and James Branscome and Peggy 
Matthews, "Selling the Mountains," Southern Exposure, Fall 1974. 

3. Author's interviews with John Coit, April 29, 1974, and David Flaherty, April 17, 
1974. 

4. North Carolina Department of Natural and Economic Resources, North Carolina 
Histor viand, Raleigh, 1974, p. 19. 

5. The New York Times, May 25, 1974. 

6. North Carolina H.B. 1395, Chapter 1207, 1963. The bill was amended into extinction 
in 1965. 

7. Author's interview, June 10, 1974. 

8. Bergen County, N.J. Record, January 22, 1975. 

9. Raleigh News and Observer, February 20, 27, 1974. 
10. The New York Times, November 17, 1974. 

One 

1. V.O. Key, Southern Politics, Peter Smith, New York, 1949, p. 5. 

2. Herbert Aptheker, The American Revolution, 1763-1783, International Publishers, 
New York, 1960, p. 220. 

3. Herbert Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts, International Publishers, New 
York, 1943, pp. 231 32. 

4. Ibid., pp. 243 44. 

5. Herbert Aptheker, To Be Free, International Publishers, New York, 1948, pp. 18-19. 

6. See Herbert Aptheker' s One Continual Cry, American Institute for Marxist Studies, 
New York, 1965, particularly pp. 47-49. 

7. Quoted in ibid., p. 12. 

8. To Be Free, op. cit., pp. 144 45. 

9. See James S. Allen, Reconstruction: The Battle for Democracy, 1865-1876, Interna- 
tional Publishers, New York, 1963, pp. 74-75. 

10. Quoted in Herbert Aptheker, Afro-American History: The Modern Era, Citadel 
Press, New York, 1971, p. 20. 

1 1. See Allen W. Trelease, White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern 
Reconstruction, edited by Kenneth B. Clark, Harper & Row, New York, 1971, pp. 
189 225, 336 348; and Richard L. Zuber, North Carolina During Reconstruction, 
North Carolina Archives, Raleigh, 1969. 

12. Helen G. Edmonds, The Negro and Fusion Politics in North Carolina, 1894-1901, 
Russell (1973 reprint of 1951 ed.), p. 210. 



Notes pp. 19-45 

13. C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913, Louisiana State Univer- 
sity Press, Baton Rouge, 1971, p. 195. 

14. The New York Times, December 16, 1914, quoted in Edmonds, op. cit., 
p. 143. 

1 5. William L. Patterson, ed., We Charge Genocide, International Publishers, New York, 
1970. 

16. In Barriers to Black Political Participation in North Carolina, Southern Voter 
Educational Project, Atlanta, 1972, the author William A. Towe gives the following 
dramatic figures: Of some 10,000 elected to fill all offices in North Carolina in 1970, 
only 10 were Black. In 197 1 , 63 of more than 2,000 mayors and councilmen and only 
82 of 4,000 elected state and local officials were Black a mere two percent. By 1976, 
there was not one Black mayor in North Carolina; only three Blacks sat in the 170- 
member General Assembly; a half-dozen were among the 468 county commissioners; 
and less than 20 occupied the more than 600 school board posts. 

Towe also points up the fact that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had less effect in North 
Carolina on Black registration than in most southern states. By 1970, North Carolina 
was at the bottom of the ladder in sout hern Black voter registration. 

17. Much of this material was gathered in interviews conducted by the author in the 
Spring of 1974. Those interviewed include then Lieutenant Governor James B. Hunt, 
February 20; then Attorney General Robert Morgan, February 22; Republican state 
senate leader Charles Taylor, February 28: Judges I. Beverly Lake, Joseph Branch 
and Dan K. Moore, April 17; then Chapel Hill Mayor Howard Lee, April 18; the late 
Governor Luther Hodges, April 19; former Governor Robert Scott, April 29; former 
Governor Terry Sanford, May 15; then Raleigh Mayor Clarence Lightner, May 20; 
U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, June 20. 

1 8 "The Man North Carolina Needs for Governor," 1960 Lake campaign brochure. 

1 9. The News and Observer, J une 26, 1 964. 

20. Key, op. cit., pp. 208-09. 

21. Quoted in ibid. 

22. Interview with Frank Porter Graham by Charles Jones, Anne Queen and Stewart 
Wills, Chapel Hill, June 9, 1961, Southern Oral History Program, University of 
North Carolina. 

23. Unpublished conversation with Jonathan Daniels and Mrs. Kerr Scott, Chapel Hill, 
June 10, 1962, Southern Oral History Program, UNC. 

24. Samuel Lubell, The Future of American Politics, Harper & Row, New York, 1965, 
pp. 106-13. 

25. Stephen Klutzman, Sam J. Ervin, Jr., Grossman Publishers, Washington, D.C., 
1972, p. 2. 

26. Paul R. Clancy, Just a Country Lawyer: A Biography of Senator Sam Ervin, Indiana 
University Press, Bloomington, 1974, p. 152. 

27. "The Watergate Committee Chairman's New Clothes," Southern Voice, March-April 
1974, p. 8. 

28. Klutzman, op. cit. 

29. Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1974. 

30. Broy hill's political career is charted in his official biography by a son-in-law, William 
Stevens, Anvil of Adversity: Biography of a Furniture Pioneer, Grosset & Dunlap, 
New York, 1968, pp. 116-32. 

3 1 . The New York Times. February 17, 1974. 

32. "The New American Majority," a speech to the Dean Clarence Manion Testimonial 
Dinner, May 15, 1974. 

33. Speech to Daughters of the American Revolution, April 16, 1974, as excerpted in The 
News and Observer, April 28, 1974. 

34. Author's interview, May 21, 1974. 

35. William H. Towe, op. cit. 



236 



Notes pp. 49-73 
Two 

1 . Luther Hodges, Businessman in the Statehouse, University of North Carolina Press, 
Chapel Hill, 1962. 

2. Ibid., p. 83. 

3. Ibid. 

4. Ibid., pp. 84-100. 

5. Raleigh Times, February 19, 1974. 

Years after the busing controversy died down in North Carolina, school desegrega- 
tion remained a major issue. Under orders from the U.S. Department of Health, 
Education and Welfare to desegregate the University of North Carolina system by 
increasing Black enrollment at its predominantly white institutions by 150 percent, 
the University's Board of Governors proposed instead a plan that called for only a 32 
percent increase. A Black member of the board resigned over the plan, a second Black 
member cast the lone dissenting vote against it, and a third abstained from the voting. 
HEW later rejected the university's proposal which had the support of Governor 
James B. Hunt, according to The New York Times, August 23, 1977. 

6. Quoted by Ferrel Guilory, "Southern Republicans: Not That They Hate Watergate 
Less But They Love the Southern Strategy More," Southern Voices, ioc. cit., p. 13. 

7. Hodges, op. cit., Chapter 10. 

8. Ibid., p. 239. 

9. Boyd E. Payton, Scapegoat— Prejudice, Politics, Prison, Whitmore, Philadelphia, 
1970, p. 31. 

10. Ibid., pp. 51-52. 

11. Ibid., p. 82. 

12. Ibid., pp. 273-75. 

13. Paul M. Gaston, The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking, 
Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1973, p. 17. 

14. "The Development of Textiles, Tobacco, Furniture Industries in North Carolina," a 
paper issued by Burlington Industries, Inc., circa 1974. 

15. The American Tobacco Story, American Tobacco Co., Durham, 1964. See also John 
Wilbur Jenkins, James B. Duke, Master Builder, Reprint Co., South Carolina, 1971. 

16. Quoted in Woodward, op. cit., p. 130. 

17. Ibid., p. 137. 

18. Quoted in ibid., p. 307. 

19. Ibid., p. 422. 

20. Aptheker, Afro- American History: The Modern Era, loc. cit., p. 351. 

21. Quoted in ibid., p. 20. 

22. W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South, Random House, New York, 1941, p. 173. 

23. Ibid., pp. 125-26. 

24. W. McKee Evans, To Die Game: The Story of the Lowry Band, Indian Guerrillas of 
Reconstruction, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1971, pp. 3-4. See 
also Evans' work. Ballots and Fence Rails: Reconstruction on the Lower Cape Fear, 
University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1967. 

25. For the most complete study of the period, see Edmonds, op. cit. 

26. Ibid., p. 10. 

27. Ibid., p. 137. 

28. Jack Riley, Carolina Power & Light Company, 1908-1958, Carolina Power & Light 
Company, Raleigh, 1958, pp. 276-78. 

29. Woodward, op. cit., p. 330. 

30. Edmonds, op. cit., chapters 6-9. 

31. Ibid., p. 138. 

32. Ibid., pp. 143-44. 

33. Woodward, op. cit., p. 350. 

34. Quoted in Edmonds, op. cit., p. 145. 



237 



Notes pp. 74-117 



35. November 17, 1898, quoted in ibid., pp. 151, 153. 

36. Quoted in ibid., p. 1 65. 

37. Ibid., p. 168. 

38. Quoted in Herbert Aptheker, ed.. Documentary History of the Segro People in the 
United States, Vol. 2, Citadel, New York, 1968, pp. 813-15." 

39. Interview with John Coit, op. cit. 

40. Author's interview with General John Tolson, state Secretary of Military and 
Veterans' Affairs, April 29, 1974. 

41. Figures for military personnel and expenditures are available from the public 
information offices at Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune. See also "Southern Militar- 
ism." Southern Exposure, Spring 1973, p. 82. 

42. Letter released by Camp Lejeune public information office. Spring 1974. 

43. Camp Lejeune 74, BP Industries, Midland, Texas, 1973, p. 56. 

44. Author's interview with Major Harold Owens, public relations officer. Camp Le- 
jeune, February 23, 1974. 

45. Ibid. 

46. Fort Bragg: Reach to Serve the Nation, BP Industries, Midland, Texas, 1973. p. 1 1 . 

47. Ibid. 

48. Helping Hands 72. BP Industries, Fort Bragg, 1973. p. 26. All references on Domestic 
Action programs, unless otherwise noted, are from this annual report. 

49. Interview, op. cit. Unless otherwise indicated, the following paragraphs are based on 
this conversation and official materials released by the DM V A. 

50. Authors interview with District Judge John Walker, February 22, 1974. 

51. Raleigh Times, August 26, 1975. See also Counterspy magazine. Winter 1976, pp. 
45 59. 

Three 

1. Reprinted as "Attorney for the Defense," Esquire, October 1973, pp. 224-27. 

2. The Sew York Times. November 6. 1973. 

3. The Sew York Times, November 30, 1973. 

4. The Sew York Times, October 15, 1973. 

5. Daily World, June 8, 1974. 

6. The Sew York Times, July 20, 1974. 

7. Ibid. 

8. The Sew York Times, July 13, 1974. 

9. Quoted by Jessica Mitford, Kind and i sual Punishment, Random House, New York, 
1974, p. 51. 

10. Interview with the author. May 21, 1974. 

11. James Baldwin "Fifth Ave.. Uptown," Esquire, October 1973. 

12. "Charlotte Report." North Carolina Criminal Justice Task Force hearings, July 
28-29, 1972, p. 5. 

13. Payton, op. cit., p. 305. 

14. "Raleigh Report." North Carolina Criminal Justice Task Force hearings, September 
9, 1972, pp. 3-4. 

15. "Charlotte Report," loc. cit. 

16. Author's interview with N.C. Highway Patrol Commander Colonel Fdward Jones, 
February 28, 1974. 

17 The Sew York Times, December 10, 1974. 

18 Interview, op. cit. 

19. Charlotte Observer, March II, 1976. 

20. Raleigh Times, April 16, 1976. 

21. Interview, April 16, 1976. 

22. Richmond, Va., Times- Dispatch, February 2, 1974. 

23. Speech by Dunn to Brotherhood of Winterville, N.C. Baptist Church, April 10, 1974. 



238 



Notes pp. 117-142 



24. Interview, op. cit. 

25. The Sews ami Observer, May 12, 1976. 

26. See David M. Rorvick, "Bringing the War Home," Playboy, February 1974. 

27. LEA A Fifth Annual Report, Fiscal Year 1973, Washington, D.C., 1973. 

28. Information and quotations regarding the Durham police are from Mark Pinsky, 
"State ofSiege, City of Siege," WIS, June 19, 1975. 

29. According to James Donovan, public relations spokesman for the American Textile 
Manufacturers Institute, in 1974 there were 1 ,023,000 textile workers in the country, 
293,000 in North Carolina. Interview with the author, April 23, 1975. 

30. "The Textile Industry and Burlington's Position In It," mimeographed paper issued in 
1974 by Burlington Industries, Inc., Greensboro. 

31. \orth Carolina Report: An Objective Study of a Southern State, First Union 
National Bank of North Carolina, Charlotte, revised edition 1974, pp. 38, 40, 42, 
55-56. 

32. Author's interview with Dick Byrd, assistant director of public relations and commu- 
nity relations for Burlington Industries, April 22, 1974. 

33. "Giant Burlington Faces Trying Time for T extiles," Business Week, March 2, 1974. 

34. Author's interview with Leo Rossi, J. P. Stevens public relations official, June 10, 
1974. 

35. "Cannon," a brochure issued by Cannon Mills in 1974. Also, author's interview with 
Cannon Mills vice-president Edward L. Rankin, Jr., April 25, 1974. 

36. Cash, op. cit., p. 222. 

37. Mary Frances Barnes, "The Richest Man Who Ever Lived in Charlotte," Charlotte, 
February, 1974. 

38. Raleigh Times, February 28, 1974; Charlotte Observer, March 11, 1976. 

39. United Mine Workers of America advertisement, The New York Times, July 17, 
1974. 

40. Transcript of testimony, N.C. Utilities Commission, Docket E-7, Sub. 159, Vol. 7, p. 
112. See the brochure, "Duke Power: the un-friendly, un-neighborly power com- 
pany!!" by the N.C. Public Interest Research Group, Durham, 1974. 

41. "Duke Power," op. cit. 

42. The \ew York Times, May 5, 1974. 

43. For a complete examination of this interlocking corporate control, see Southern 
Exposure, Summer-Fall, 1973; and 1973 annual reports for Wachovia Bank, NCNB, 
Duke Power, C& L, Burlington Industries, J.P.Stevens Co., R.J. Reynolds Co. 

44. Interv iew with author, April 25, 1975. 

45. Key, op. cit., p. 21 1. 

46. Barnes, loc. cit. See also "A Troublesome Legacy: James B. Duke's Bequest to His 
Cousins," The \orth Carolina Historical Review, October 1973, pp. 394 415. 

47. "Public Relations Pointers," published by the American Textiles Manufacturers 
Institute, Charlotte, January 1974. 

48. "Back to the Good Old Ways," special edition of Duke Power Magazine, 1974, p. 5. 

Four 

1. Figures released by the North Carolina Board of Conservation and Development. 

2. Figures cited in interview with author by William Coley, industrial developer for 
Carolina Power & Light Co., May 21, 1974. 

3. North Carolina Statewide Development Policy, North Carolina Department of 
Administration, Raleigh, March 1972, pp. 3-45. 

4. Author's interview with Creed Gilley, April 24, 1974. 

5. Interview with author May 1, 1974. 

6. "Report on Existing Area Survey," Carolina Power & Light Co., April 1974. 

7. Author's interview with William Coley, May 24, 1974. 

8. Interview with author, April 19, 1974. 



239 



Notes pp. 142-148 



9. Interviewwith author, May 16, 1974. 

10. "Report on Existing Area Survey," op. cit. 

11. Op. cit. 

12. See Kenyon Bertel Segner 111, A History of the Community College Movement in 
North Carolina, 1927-1963, James Sprunt Press, Kenansville, N.C., 1974, p. v. 

13. North Carolina Community College System, Biennial Report 1970-1971, North 
Carolina State Board of Education, Raleigh, p. 5 1 . 

14. North Carolina Community College System Report 1963-70, North Carolina State 
Board of Education, Raleigh, p. 87. 

15. Terry Sanford, But What About the People?, Harper & Row, New York, 1966, p. 107. 

16. Interview with the author. May 21, 1975. 

17. "Glad You Asked That," distributed by the North Carolina Board of Education in 
1974. 

18. Ibid. 

1 9. North Carolina Report, op. cit., pp. 22-28. 

20. Emil Malizia, et. al.. Earnings Gap in North Carolina, North Carolina State AFL- 
CIO, Raleigh, June 1975. 

21. "North Carolina and the Southeast: A Bird's Eye Perspective and a Future Look," 
published by the Wachovia Bank and Trust Co., Winston-Salem, 1 973, p. 5. 

22. General Social and Economic Characteristics, 1970 Census, North Carolina, Wash- 
ington D.C., 1972. ( Hereafter, 1970 Census, N.C.) 

23. "Economic Outlook for North Carolina in the 1970s," a speech by Wachovia vice- 
president M.N. Hennessee. 1973, p. 6. 

24. Ibid., p. 8. 

25. Statistics quoted by Sol Stetin, then general president of the Textile Workers Union 
of America, Daily World, June 17, 1975. 

26. North Carolina Slate Government Statisical Abstract, second edition, Raleigh, 1973. 
p. 209 ( Hereafter referred to as Statistical Abstract. ) 

27. Ibid, p. 220. 

28. Klutzman,op. cit., p. 5. 

29. The North Carolina Fund, Annual Review 1966, Durham, 1967, p. B-14. 

30. Ibid., pp. A-LB-II. 

The following excerpted story from a North Carolina Fund article, "Domestics 
United: An Exercise in Free Enterpirse," indicates the Fund's approach to eradicating 
poverty: "When Domestics United first appeared, there were no smiles from the white 
housewives of Charlotte. They feared a maid's 'union' that would make militant 
demands without offering high quality services in return. Things have worked out 
differently. Higher wages and more benefits are indeed the goals of Domestics United, 
but better service rather than militant action is to be the means of getting there. For 
those who can profit by training and show their dependability, higher wages appear to 
be assured. Says M rs. Adams [ Wilhelrnina Adams, president], 'We have people who 
promise to pay $ 1 .40 an hour for a maid who has had real training in domestic skills.'" 
(Blue Print for Opportunity, The North Carolina Fund, Volume 3, Number 3. 
November 1967, p. 8.) 

31. Michael P. Brooks, The Dimensions of Poverty in North Carolina, The North 
Carolina Fund, Durham, June 1964, pp. 3-4. 

32. North Carolina's Present and Future Poor, The North Carolina Fund, Durham, 
1 966, p. 45. 

33. 1970 Census, N. C. op. cit. 

34. Ibid. 

35. Annual Review 1966, op. cit., p. B-1 1. 

36. James Baldwin, op. cit. 

37. Annual Review, 1966, op. cit., p. B-14. 

38. Jim Burns, "Dimensions of Poverty in North Carolina," People, published by State 
Department of Human Resources, Summer 1973. 



240 



Notes pp. 148-169 

39. Klutzman, op. cit.,p. 6. 

40. Raleigh Times, April 27, 1 974. 

41. Statistical Abstract, op.cit., p. 310. 

42. Ibid., pp. 296-97. 

43. Statistics and standards stated in interviews with June Stallings and with Dr. Rene 
Wescott, director of social services division, N.C. Department of Human Resources 
February 28, 1974. 

44. Statistical Abstract, op. cit.,pp. 80-86. 

45. Adult Services in North Carolina, special report number 16 of N.C. Department of 
Human Resources, February 1973, p. 4. 

46. Public Assistance Trends in North Carolina, special report number 19, N.C. Depart- 
ment of Human Resources, August 1973, p. 33. 

47. North Carolina Local Health Department Budgetary, Economic and Other Pertinent 
Data, Fiscal Year 1972-1973, January 1973, p. 7. 

48. Author's interview with Dr. Jacob Kumen, Director, N.C. Health Department, 
February 27, 1974. 

49. Communicable Disease Morbidity Statistics, 1972, N.C. Department of Human 
Resources Division of Health Services, Raleigh, 1973, pp. 2-3, 2-2. 

50. Statistical Abstract, op. cit., p. 59. 

5 1 . North Carolina Nutritional Survey, Part One, Raleigh, 1974. 

52. Klutzman, op. cit., p. 6. 

53. Wesley George, "The Biology of the Race Problem," prepared by Commission of the 
Governor of Alabama, 1962. 

54. Ibid., p. 18. 

55. Ibid., pp. 22-23. 

56. Ibid., p. 18. 

57. Psychology Today, September 1972. 

58. "Eugenical Sterilization in North Carolina," a pamphlet by R. Eugene Brown, 
Eugenics Board Secretary, issued by the Board, 1938, p. 3. 

59. Ibid., p. 5. 

60. Ibid., p. 9. 

61. Published by the N.C. Eugenics Board, May 1948. 

62. Ibid., p. 6. 

63. Biannual Reports, 1954-1968, N.C. Eugenics Board. 

64. Interview with author, February 28, 1975. 

65. See Herbert Aptheker, "Racism and Human Experimentation," Political Affairs, 
January and February 1974, for a Marxist refutation of the ideological tenets of 
"eugenics." 

66. Ibid. 

67. The New York Times, March 13, 1975. 

68. New York Post, April 10, 1974. 

69. The New York Times, February 8, 1974. 

70. New York, 1972, p. 2. 

71. Quoted by Joseph Reynolds, "Behavior Modification: Psycho-Fascism in Disguise," 
Political Affairs, May 1974. 

72. New York>o5/. March 18, 1972. 

73. Psychology Today. April 1970. 

74. The New York Times, February 15, 1974. 

75. Testimony before House Committee on Government Operations, "Hearings on 
Federal Involvement in the Use of Behavior Modification Drugs on Grammar School 
Children," 9 1 st Congress, Second session. 

Five 

I. Charlotte Observer, July 3, 1975; and the Daily World, August 29, 1975. 



241 



Notes pp. 169-177 

2. Statistical Abstract, op. cit., p. 360. 

3. Ibid., p. 355. 

4. Author's interview with David Jones, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Social 
Rehabilitation, February 27, 1974. 

5. The figure and quotations are from David Jones, A New Direction on Correction: 
Long-range Construction and Conversion Plan, 1974 1983, North Carolina Depart- 
ment of Corrections, Raleigh, 1974, pp. 1 , 3. 

6. See Jesse F. Steiner and Roy M. Brown, The North Carolina Chain Gang, Patterson 
Smith, Chapel Hill, 1927, Chapter 2. 

7. Ibid., pp. 12 13. 

8. Ibid., p. 14. 

9. Ibid., p. 15. 

10. Ibid., p. 19. 

11. Ibid., p. 24. 

12. Ibid., p. 6. 

13. Hodges. op. cit., pp. 140 44. 

14. "North Carolina and the Southeast," op. cit., Appendix A. 

15. Mitford,op.cit.,p.228. 

16. See Steve Carlson, "Rehabilitation or Super Exploitation?," World Magazine, 
August 17, 1974. 

17. Steve Carlson, "Super-Exploitation in the Prisons," World Magazine, August 10, 
1974. 

1 8. 1 975 brochure issued by the State of North Carolina. 

19. Statistical Abstract, op. cit., p. 357. 

20. Author's interview with Ralph Edwards. N.C. Commissioner of Correction, Febru- 
ar\28, 1974. 

21. Ibid. 

22. Ibid. 

23. Jones, op. cit.. p. I. 

24. The New s and Observer, February 21,1 974. 

25. As quoted in Mason P. Thomas, Jr., Juvenile Corrections and Juvenile Jurisdiction, 
Institute of Government, Chapel Hill, 1972, p. 4. 

26. See Tomorrow in Youth Development by the N.C. Department of Social Rehabilita- 
tion, 1973, p. 7. 

27. Ibid., p. 2. 

28. Interview with the author, April 19, 1974. 

29. T homas, op. cit., p. 2. 

30. Ibid., p. 3. 

31. Ibid., p. 5. 

32. Interview with Mason Thomas, op. cit. 

33. Thomas, op. cit.. p. 7. 

In November 1973, 17-year-old Allan Foy wrote home from his cell in maximum- 
security Central Prison: "Mom and Dad, can 1 please come home? ... 1 can't stand 
being locked up anymore and it won't be long until Christmas and it would not be 
pleasant at all to be here. 1 have been locked up so many Christmas days it's 
unforgetable. 1 just can't stand it any longer." Two days after Christmas, Allan Foy 
was dead, killed by a 4,300-volt electrical barrier, while trying to escape from Central. 
Allan Foy was serving a year-and-a-quarter on a misdemeanor charge of malicious 
damage, for having broken a window in his father's store. He was sent to prison 
"because everybody the judge, the police chief, his father and even Allan himself 
believed it was the only place he could get help for his mental problems . . . "At a 
pretrial meeting with his father, the chief and court-appointed attorney Earl Collins, 
Allan agreed to plead guilty with the understanding that he receive psychiatric help. 
The offenses didn't amount to a hill of beans certainly not enough to give the boy an 



242 



Notes pp. 177-195 



active sentence,' Collins said. 'But we felt this was the only way to make sure he got 
help." Collins said he considered having the boy committed to a state mental hospital 
by judicial order but 'he simply wasn't insane enough. He was a boy trying to find 
himself.' "( Charlotte Observer, January 13, 1974.) 

34. Mason P. Thomas, Jr., A Summary of Legislation Affecting Juvenile Corrections by 
the 1973 General Assembly, Institute of Government, Chapel Hill, 1974, p. 4. 

35. Ibid., pp. 6-7. 

36. As the Twig is Bent: A Report on the North Carolina Juvenile Corrections System, 
prepared by the North Carolina Bar Association's Penal System Study Committee, 
Raleigh, 1972, p. 18. 

37. Author's interview, op. cit. 

38 The News and Observer, August 4, 1 975. 

39. The prosecution's use of hoods like Mitchell and Hall in the Wilmington 10 and Hood 
and Washington in the Charlotte Three and Chavis-Grant trials, had its precedents in 
the frame-ups of labor leaders from Gastonia to Henderson, in the decades-long 
attempt by the companies and the state to break the working-class movement. Boyd 
Payton, a leader of the Henderson strike in 1959, writes in Scapegoat, his memoir of 
the strike, his trial and his years in prison, of Harold Aaron, the petty crook who 
became a "hero" as the key witness against the union leaders. Payton quotes from a 
local news story of the time: 

"The bravest man 1 know.' 

"This was the tribute prosecutor Robert Hight had for Harold Aaron more than a 
year ago. 

"True, Aaron's testimony had just sent Boyd Payton and seven other union men to the 
penitentiary in the Henderson dynamite conspiracy trial. 

"But it was a peculiar tribute, just the same. The only thing Aaron had heard from 
prosecutors for most of his adult life had been ugly charges of his guilt on charges of 
assault, assault with deadly weapons, drunkenness, reckless driving, theft, larceny of 
an auto, impersonation of an officer, etc. 

"But this time Aaron, as a paid informer of the State Bureau of Investigation and with 
at least $1,1 00 [inflation has boosted the cost of informers, as it has gasoline and lamb 
chops, in the ensuing years M . M .] of taxpayer funds in his jeans, was to bask in the 
role of H ero for the State." ( p. 274. ) 

40. Cash, op. cit., p. 247. 

41. Quoted in George B. Tindall, The Emergence of the New South, 1913-1945, Louisi- 
ana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1967, p. 345. See also pp. 75, 3 1 8-77. 

42. Broadus Mitchell, "Fleshpots in the South," Virginia Quarterly Review, 111, 1927, 
p. 169. 

43. Harry M. Douty, "The North Carolina Industrial Worker, 1880-1930," University of 
North Carolina Ph. D. thesis, 1 936, p. 343. 

44. See Tom Tippett, When Southern Labor Stirs, Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, 
New York, 1931. 

45. "The Story of Gastonia," flyer issued by the International Labor Defense, New York, 
1929. 

46. See Samuel Yellen, American Labor Struggles, 1877-1934, Monad Press, New York, 
1974, pp. 308-15. 

47. Quoted in ibid., p. 3 10. 

48. The Nation, September 25, 1 929. 

49. Liston Pope, Millhands and Preachers, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1965, p. 
294. 

50. Irving Bernstein, The Lean Years, Houghton Mifflin Co, Baltimore, 1966, p. 27. 

51. Werner Jones, "Southern Labor and the Law," The Nation, July 2, 1930, as quoted in 
Pope, op. cit., p. 295. 

52. The Nation, September 25, 1 929. 



243 



Notes pp. 195-217 

53. Cash, op. cit., pp. 303-04. 

54. Sinclair Lewis, Cheap and Contented Labor, pamphlet reprinted and distributed by 
the Asheville Area Central Labor Union, no date, p. 18. 

55. Yellen, op. cit., pp. 3 1 6-2 1 ; also Pope, op. cit., p. 349. 

56. Ibid., p. 321. 

57. Tindall,op.cit.,p.523. 

58. Ibid., pp. 526-27. 

59. Ibid., pp. 572-73,512. 

60. Art Shields, "The Reynolds Strike of 1947" World Magazine, June 4, 1977. 

61. Patterson, op. cit., p. 85. 

62. Most of this account is taken from George Morris' column, "World of Labor," Daily 
World, July 13, 1974. 

63. Author's interview with Wilbur Hobby, president of the N.C. AFL-ClOand a former 
tobacco worker, April 18, 1974. 

64. Interview with author, April 23, 1974. 

65. Herbert R. Northrup, "The Negro in the Tobacco Industry," in Negro Employment in 
Southern Industry, by H.R. Northrup and Richard Rowan, University of Pennsyl- 
vania Press, Philadelphia, 1970, Study 49. 

66. Interview with author, April 25, 1974. 

67. See Nina Bogomolova, "Human Relations" Doctrine: Ideological Weapon of the 
Monopolies, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1973. 

68. Ibid., p. 20. 

69. Quoted in ibid., p. 60. 

70. Robert Dubin, The World of Work, Prentice-Hall, New York, 1958, p. 245, as quoted 
in ibid., p. 91. 

71. Ibid., p. 112. 

72. Peter Drucker, The New Society, the Anatomy of Industrial Order, Harper & Row, 
New York, 1962, p. 283, quoted in ibid., p. 93. ' 

73. News release issued by American Textile Manufacturers Institute, Charlotte, Febru- 
ary 21, 1974. 

74. Interview with author, May 16, 1974. 

75. Pope, op. cit., p. 298. 

76. Ibid., p. 292. 

77. Ibid., pp. 30-31. 

78. Baltimore Evening Sun, May 13, 1929, quoted in ibid., p. 282. 

79. Authors interview with Professor Daniel Pollitt, April 21, 1974. 

80. Author's interview with Duke Endowment spokesman Robert J. Salstead, April 25, 
1974. 

81. Author's interview with R.J. Reynolds vice-president Charles Wade, April 23, 1974. 

82. Letter to constituents sent out on the letterhead of the "Americans Against Union 
Control of Government," undated 1975. 

83. See Kenneth M. Jarin, Earl B. Ruth, Washington, D.C., 1972, pp. 2-3. 

84. North Carolina Public Interest Research Group, Caution: North Carolina OS HA 
May Be Hazardous to Your Health, Durham, 1976. 

85. Quoted in The Guardian, October 16, 1974. 

86. Action, Durham, April-May 1974. 

87. Henry P. Leiferman, Crystal Lee: A Woman of Inheritance, MacMillan, New York, 
1975, pp. 46-49. 

88 . The New York Times, May 25, ! 976. 

89. Ed McConville,"How 7,041 Got Fired " The Nation, October 25, 1975. 

90. The New York Times, September 1 , 1977. 

91. The New York Times, December 29, 1 977. 

92. McConville, op. cit. 

93. Richard L. Rowan, "The Negro in the Textile Industry," Northrup and Rowan, op. 
cit. 



244 



Notes pp. 217-233 

94. The New York Times, J une 30, 1 976. 

95. New American Movement, November 1974. 

96. Interview with author, April 18, 1974. 

97. Interview with author. May 16. 1974. 

A fterword 

I. Helms, whose idea of a man of vision seems to be someone who follows him, is 
something of a human divining-rod insofar as Jimmy Carter's human-rights princi- 
ples are concerned. While the gentlemen's agreement with the Justice Department was 
being negotiated. Carter's State Department came to the defense of the fascist regime 
in Chile, which Helms had helped bring to power. Citing the fact that many of the 
functions of the Chilean secret police, DIN A, had been transferred to other agencies, 
a department spokesman said that, "The image regarding human rights Chile has 
generally abroad is somewhat distorted and somewhat out of date." The transferred 
"functions" that went unelaborated upon included torture and murder of the regime's 
opponents. (Boston Globe, August 20, 1977.) 

Two weeks after Helms' plea bargain was entered in court, he announced the opening 
of his new consulting firm that would advise U.S. businessmen on matters of trade 
between the United States and Iran. The new company, located two blocks from the 
White House, was named the Safeer Company. In Parsi, the Persian language, 
"safeer" means "ambassador." Helms had of course served as U.S. ambassador to 
Iran following his resignation from the CIA. The Iranian regime, perhaps the most 
barbaric in modern times if gauged in terms of widespread torture and political 
imprisonment, was brought to power by a coup d'etat engineered by Helms' col- 
leagues at the CIA. 

The day before Helms opened his business, that regime's head of state, the Shah of 
Iran, was welcomed by President Carter to Washington. The President praised the 
Shah for maintaining a "strong, stable and progressive Iran" under his leadership; and 
apologized to the dictator for "our temporary air pollution problem," referring to tear 
gas lingering in the White House air after the police dispersed peaceful anti-Shah 
demonstrators. (The New York Times, Nov. 16, 17, 1977.) 



245 



Also by the author 



These Are the Good Old Days (1970) 
Memories of Underdevelopment (1973) 
Watergate: Crime in the Suites (1973) 



/ 



OUKE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES 




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